It started as a great flight from Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Lakehurst, New Jersey. We were flying north to work with an old diesel submarine that was pulled out of mothballs so we could test a new torpedo. I was assigned to a squadron tasked with the operational testing and evaluation of new equipment and weapon systems for the SH-60B Sea Hawk. An aviation antisubmarine warfare operator second-class petty officer working on my second shore tour in a Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) department, I had 2,000 flight hours and three long cruises under my belt.
The flight crew consisted of two lieutenants in the cockpit and me in the back of the aircraft. The lieutenants were friends who previously had served together in the same fleet squadron. The aircraft commander was assigned to our command; the other lieutenant was an admiral's aide who occasionally came to NAS Patuxent River to get much-needed flight time and escape briefly from inside the Washington beltway.