Although the investigation about the recent P-8 mishap in Hawaii has just begun, the social media people have already issued a verdict: the cause of the incident was an all-female crew.
On Nov. 20, 2023, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft 169561 YD-561, belonging to the VP-4 “Skinny Dragons” based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, ended in water after overshooting the runway during landing at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The crew, safely evacuated the aircraft after the mishap without immediate injuries.
If it weren’t for the images of the Poseidon surrounded by water some 50 yards offshore circulating online, some of which were used for memes and jokes, it would ultimately be an accident like many others.
For instance, the mishap immediately reminded me of a similar accident occurred to a Boeing E-3 Sentry of NATO, registration LX-N90457, that aborted take off at Prevesa Air Base in Greece. During the takeoff roll, after V1 speed (the velocity at which a pilot must decide whether to continue with the takeoff or abort it), the pilot-in-command heard a loud noise, which he he attributed to the impact of a bird. As a consequence, he aborted the take off roll and started an emergency braking maneuver. However, the aircraft overran the runway and the airframe split into two after dropping down to the shore, almost in the water. Even then, out of 16 occupants, there were no casualties, although the airframe was a total loss.
Back to the P-8 incident, as for any other aviation incident, it will take some time for the investigators to determine the causes of the mishap. However, many people on social media, have already pointed their finger on diversity: according to some crazy theories, the cause of the crash was that aboard the Poseidon that overran the runway at Kanehoe Bay was an “all-female” aircrew.
Without any knowledge or insight about the investigation (that will need some time), many random commenters are spreading online the theory that the mishap was caused by the lack of expertise and abilities of a “diversity aircrew” (do you want to check? Ok, take a look at the comment thread below our articles here and here, or the Instagram post below).
First, no one said or confirmed that the P-8 aircrew was an all-female aircrew. It looks like all the claims, comments, and photos circulating about an all-female aircrew are from or referring to a Sept. 26, 2023 story about a crew from VP-45. However, as already explained, the P-8A crew from the mishap is assigned to Whidbey Island, Washington-based VP-4 “Skinny Dragons. In other words, they are completely different units.
We have reached out to the U.S. Navy to address allegations claiming the mishap aircrew was an all-female aircrew and we were confirmed by a U.S. Third Fleet spokesperson that “observed comments and photos circulating online are from or referring to a Sept. 26, 2023 story about a crew from VP-45 whereas the mishap crew was from VP-4”.
Second and most important: let’s assume that the crew was all-female (although, as said, this has not been confirmed), how does it relate to the cause of the incident?
We don’t know anything: we don’t know whether the aircraft was fully efficient or not, if a system failed, if a wheel blew, if there was an impact with a bird or an object, if the weather conditions had a sudden change, etc. In other words, we know nothing about the incident.
Nevertheless, someone, most probably driven by prejudice and discrimination, has already drawn the conclusion that the P-8 ended in the water because of a human error and, above all, that the error was caused by the aircrew’s gender (as if the female pilots or service members didn’t train in the same schools, didn’t undertake the same qualification courses and exams, and didn’t carry out the same tasks as their male colleagues for some decades now…).
As always, no guesses should be made and spread online as facts before the results of the investigation are made public. This is extremely important to prevent fake or distorted news from spreading in the aftermath of any aviation accident.
In fact, the only thing that really matters is the final report that, after a thorough analysis, will highlight the actual causes of the crash and suggest corrective measures in any required field (technical, procedural, related to the aircrew training and composition, Crew Resource Management, Air Traffic Control, etc.) so that similar incidents do not happen again in the future.
Needless to say, when the report is released, we will discuss the root causes of the incident, be it a pilot error, a technical glitch, a combination of different things or any other possible contributing factor (including any eventual diversity-related issue). Until then, please refrain from speculating online and stick to the facts.
PS Obviously, memes and jockes like “The (P-8) Poseidon Adventure”; “Submarine hunter became one” etc, are funny and still fine…
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.