Video puts you in the cockpit of a Navy Prowler on a low-level flight through the Cascade Mountains

EA-6B Prowler
An EA-6B Prowler out of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, March 1, 2016.

  • This is what it looks like to fly an EA-6B Prowler on the Visual Route 1355 low-level military training route in Washington state.
  • VR 1355 is known as the “million-dollar ride” for its scenic views and the fun and “aggressive” flying that can be done on it.
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The last US Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler squadron, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 (VMAQ-2), was formally deactivated in March 2019, when the last two jets, 162230/CY-02 and 162228/CY-04, took part in a sundown ceremony that also included flying in formation over Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

All the US Navy and Marines Prowler squadrons had already been deactivated since then (the last ones being all USMC units: VMAQ-1, in May 2016, VMAQ-4 in June 2017 and VMAQ-3 in May 2018).

The EA-6B was an iconic aircraft born out of military requirements during the Vietnam War. It entered service in 1971 and 170 aircraft were built before the production was terminated in 1991. For more than four decades, the Prowler was “at the forefront of military electronic warfare allowing high-profile air combat missions.”

The EA-6B’s last deployment, in 2018, was carried out by VMAQ-2 to support of Operation Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel, in Afghanistan, as well as Operation Inherent Resolve, in Iraq and Syria.

But, overall, the Prowler deployed more than 70 times to support every major combat operation, including those in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Serbia.

EA 6B Refuel

While not deployed, the type carried out stateside training sorties, practicing ground-attack support missions, disruption of enemy electromagnetic activity and tactical electronic intelligence.

While most of the latest mission profiles saw the aircraft operate at medium and high altitude, the Prowler’s aircrews regularly flew low-level training missions too.

The footage in this post was taken in 2010 by a user who, based on the other videos posted on his Youtube channel, flew with the US Navy’s VAQ-139 “Cougars.”

The clip is particularly interesting as it shows, from the front cockpit, an EA-6B flying low level along VR-1355, one of the low-level routes running through national parks in the Cascade Mountains.

As we explained in a post about a photo of an EA-18G taken there, the Visual Route 1355 is colloquially called the “million-dollar ride” for both the scenic views and the fun and “aggressive” flying that can be done through the valleys.

Thanks to the video below, now you can also get an idea of what it looked like to fly the route at low level in the Prowler.

While the footage is outstanding, I’m pretty sure it will also remind someone the famous incident that occurred to an EA-6B in Italy in 1998.

On February 3, 1998, EA-6B Prowler #163045/CY-02, from VMAQ-2, deployed at Aviano Air Base, in northeastern Italy, for the Balkans crisis, using radio callsign “EASY 01” and flying a low-level route cut a cable supporting a cable car of an aerial lift, near Cavalese, a ski resort in the Dolomites. Twenty people died when the cabin plunged over 260 feet and crashed on the ground in what is also known as the “Cavalese cable car disaster” or “Strage del Cermis.”

At 15:13 LT, when the aircraft struck the cables supporting the cable car the aircraft was flying at a speed of 540 mph (870 km/h) and at an altitude of between 260 and 330 feet (80 and 100 m) in a narrow valley between the mountains.

While the aircraft had wing and tail damage, it was able to return to Aviano.

The subsequent investigation found that the EA-6B was flying too low and against regulations. Initially, all four men on the plane were charged, but only the pilot, Capt. Richard J. Ashby, and his navigator, Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, actually faced trial (that took place at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina), charged with 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide.

At the end of the first trial, the pilot was acquitted on all charges relating to the disaster (charges which were dropped for the navigator too) in a verdict that caused shock and resentment in Italy generating an upsurge of anti-American feeling.

During the trial it emerged that the US Marine Corps aircrews used obsolete US military maps that, unlike local ones, did not show the cables, and were not aware of altitude regulations concerning low-level flying.

The two Marines were court-martialed a second time when it became evident they had destroyed a videotape filmed on the day of the incident. Eventually, Capts. Ashby and Schweitzer were found guilty in May 1999; both were dismissed from the service and Ashby received a six-month prison term. Families were eventually compensated 1.9M USD per victim.

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Apple farm hit with $2 million fine after migrant workers die of COVID-19

In this photo taken Tuesday, June 16, 2020, orchard worker Francisco Hernandez reaches to pull honey crisp apples off the vine during a thinning of the trees at an orchard in Yakima, Wash.

  • Gebbers Farms in the state of Washington has been fined over $2 million for “egregious willful violations” of COVID-19 health orders.
  • Over the summer, two migrant workers at the farm died from the coronavirus.
  • “COVID-19 is a known workplace hazard, and we expect businesses in Washington state to follow the requirements,” a Washington official told Business Insider. “They did not. That’s the short of it.”
  • “These people were not disposable,” Elizabeth Strater, a UFW organizer, told Business Insider. “Gebbers Farms should be held accountable for every worker who was sickened or killed in those camps.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Gebbers Farms boasts that it has some of the world’s freshest apples. But, according to the state of Washington, it also has some of the most willfully negligent leadership: Two of its workers dying of COVID-19 while the company defied health orders intended to arrest the spread of the coronavirus.

Following a months-long investigation, Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries announced Monday that it was assessing one of the largest workplace safety fines in its history: $2,038,200.

Like many farms in America, Gebbers relies on a largely immigrant workforce; people, mostly from Central America, who enter the country on a temporary, H-2A visa and are tied to the employer that has invited them – a setup that strictly curtails the ability of workers to vote with their feet and leave an abusive workplace.

In April, advocates for those workers sued the state, demanding that it issue emergency rules – not just voluntary recommendations – requiring masks and social distancing both in the fields and in the company-provided dormitories where employees sleep. Weeks later, it did just that.

But, officials say, Gebbers refused to abide by the new regulations.

“This farm clearly understood the steps they were required to take to keep workers safe,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said Monday. However, “Gebbers made it very apparent to investigators they had no intention of following the rules as written regarding temporary agricultural worker housing and transportation.”

On its website, CEO Cass Gebbers appears to shift responsibility to employees for the company’s poor compliance with public health edicts. “We provide education materials to our team members, but our workers are the ones who read and follow them,” he wrote. “We develop a cohort program to limit COVID spread, but it is our guest workers who must live, recreate, and work with only those in their cohort.”

The post acknowledges “the scores of people who have died during this pandemic.” Two of them – a 37-year-old from Mexico and a 63-year-old from Jamaica – worked at the farm itself.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. It has 15 days to appeal the penalty.

According to the state, that’s how the investigation began. In July, investigators fielded calls from workers at Gebbers Farm, one stating that a coworker had died but that those who slept in the same cabin were neither tested nor segregated from others; another caller feared that hundreds had been infected.

Despite state rules, investigators who looked around the farm itself found that hundreds of workers were sleeping in bunk beds with an inadequate distance between them; they were also not remaining in their 15-worker “cohorts,” a policy intended to limit outbreaks.

“Gebbers continually failed to comply, even after the first worker died and our repeated presence at the farm, clearly demonstrating a lack of regard for worker safety and health,” Anne Soiza, assistant director at the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said Monday.

Overall, the state said it uncovered two dozen “egregious willful violations” at Gebbers, split evenly between violations over housing and transportation, Tim Church, director of communications at L&I, told Business Insider. The violations occurred over a 12-day period in July, he said, from when the company was told what it must do to be in compliance to the day that it finally did so.

“COVID-19 is a known workplace hazard, and we expect businesses in Washington state to follow the requirements,” Church told Business Insider. “They did not. That’s the short of it.”

United Farm Workers, one of the labor unions that sued to pressure Washington into issuing the coronavirus regulations, heralded the $2 million fine leveled against the company.

“These people were not disposable,” Elizabeth Strater, a UFW organizer, told Business Insider. “Gebbers Farms should be held accountable for every worker who was sickened or killed in those camps.”

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