Today's naval air culture resembles that of the space agency in the days preceding its space shuttle disasters. Will the single-seat Hornet community be spared a similar fate?
The accident investigations of both the Challenger and Columbia disasters highlighted a number of cultural traits within NASA that, but for the change of a name, are every bit as applicable to naval aviation. Investigators found an organization "blinded by its 'Can-Do' attitude, a cultural artifact . . . that was inappropriate in a . . . program so strapped by schedule pressures and shortages that spare parts had to be cannibalized from one vehicle to launch another." Its measure of success had become "how much costs were reduced" as budget limitations forced the agency "again and again to refashion itself into an efficiency model." While "at the same time that NASA's leaders were emphasizing the importance of safety, their personnel cutbacks sent other signals." Even NASA's motto of "faster, better, cheaper" bears more than a passing resemblance to the Navy's practice of "do more with less."1