Lt. Charles Z. Walker was Embry Riddle Graduate, Strike Fighter School Grad.
The U.S. Navy has identified the pilot killed in the crash of a Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 in the Rainbow Canyon low flying training area as Lt. Charles Z. Walker, 33, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151, the “Vigilantes” based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California.
Lt. Walker joined Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 in February 2018, after the unit returned from a deployment on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), according to his official Navy biography and statements released on USNI.com.
Prior to his latest assignment with the VFA-151 “Vigilantes”, Lt. Walker attended the Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific at NAS Lemoore. He had previously been a member of the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195, the “Dambusters” as part of the Navy’s forward-deployed Carrier Air Wing 5 based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
Lt. Walker received his officer’s commission in the U.S. Navy in late 2008 shortly before graduating from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Walker did not list a hometown, according to U.S. Navy records.
In a statement on Twitter, the U.S. Naval Air Forces wrote, “He was an integral member of the Vigilante family and his absence will be keenly felt on the flight line. Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession, and they knowingly accept it in service to our nation. The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.”
The Aviationist’s contributor Eric Rosenwald happened to be on his way to the Canyon when the incident occurred. He took some interesting shots that provide an interesting overview of the crash area. This Twitter thread is worth a read:
I’m going through my photos from the crash scene, taken later in the day. Is this the impact site? The black spot on the canyon wall doesn’t appear in other photos of Rainbow Canyon, and is consistent with the US Navy press statement. @TheAviationist @thewarzonewire pic.twitter.com/JnP6kmBbRe
— Eric Rosenwald (@rosenwald_eric) August 3, 2019
Seven people on the ground received cuts and burns when they were struck by shrapnel from the wreckage, according to a Death Valley National Park spokesperson. They were identified as being French tourists, six were members of the same family.
The people injured on the canyon wall above where the aircraft impacted and exploded were being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital in California. A story released by CBS Los Angeles on August 2, 2019, quoted Dr. Peter Grossman of the treatment facility as saying, “All of them will need to undergo surgery to treat their burn injuries. Some of them are going to start surgery tomorrow morning, and some will wait for a day or two until we take them to the operating room, but it’s very likely that a number of them are going to require skin grafts of their own.”