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First Name: Kara

Last Name: Hultgreen

Birthplace: Greenwich, CT, USA

Gender: Female

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: San Antonio, TX
Middle Name: Spears

Date of Birth: 05 October 1965

Date of Death: 25 October 1994

Rank or Rate: Lieutenant

Years Served: 1987-1994
Kara Spears Hultgreen
'Hulk; She-Hulk; Revlon'


Kara Spears Hultgreen
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

Kara Spears Hultgreen was born on 5 October 1965 in Greenwich, CT, and raised in both Chicago, IL, and Toronto, Canada. Hultgreen moved to San Antonio, TX, in 1981 following her parents' divorce. She attended Alamo Heights High School, and received a Congressional nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy, but failed to win an appointment. She attended the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Aerospace Engineering in the pursuit of her dream to become an astronaut.

Military Career

Believing that her best chance to become an astronaut lay with becoming a Navy pilot first, she joined the Navy by enrolling in the Aviation Officer Candidate School at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, FL. Upon graduation (ranked third of seven in her class) she was commissioned as and Ensign and assigned to Aviation Training Wing Four based at NAS Corpus Christi, TX. Following designation as a Naval Aviator, she received orders to fly EA-6A Prowlers and learn ground attack roles with VAQ-33 at NAS Key West, FL.

Upon the Navy's integration of women in combat in 1993, Lieutenant Hultgreen was selected to be among the first female pilots to undergo F-14 Tomcat training at Miramar Naval Air Station, San Diego, CA.

While with Fleet Replacement Squadron VF-124, Hultgreen failed her first attempt at carrier qualification. She was successfully carrier-qualified during a second period aboard USS Constellation (CV-64) in the summer of 1994, becoming the first "combat qualified" female Naval Aviator. She was assigned to the Black Lions of VF-213 and began preparations for deployment to the Persian Gulf aboard the Aircraft Carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln. She was considered a skilled pilot, ranking as Average to Above Average in all F-14 qualification tasks.

Her call signs were initially "Hulk" or "She-Hulk," for her ability to: bench-press 200 pounds; her 6-foot frame; and a play on her surname of Hultgreen. But, after a television appearance in which she wore detectable makeup, her colleagues bestowed a new and more feminine call sign, "Revlon."

Air Crash

On 25 October 1994, just three months after passing her carrier qualifications, Hultgreen was killed when her F-14A (BuNo 160390) crashed on approach to USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego after a routine mission. Finding herself overshooting the centerline, Hultgreen attempted to correct her approach by yawing the aircraft. This led to the left-hand engine suffering a compressor stall and losing power-a well known deficiency characteristic of the TF30-P-414A engine when inlet air was no longer flowing straight into it. The F-14 NATOPS flight manual warned against excess yaw for this reason. Loss of an F-14 engine results in asymmetric thrust, which can exceed rudder authority, especially at low speeds.

After aborting the approach, Hultgreen selected full afterburner on the remaining engine, causing even greater asymmetry. This, combined with a high angle of attack, caused an unrecoverable approach-turn stall and rapid wing-drop to the left. LT Matthew Klemish, the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) in the rear seat initiated ejection for himself and Hultgreen as soon as it was apparent that the aircraft was becoming uncontrollable. First in the automated ejection sequence, the RIO survived. However, by the time Hultgreen's seat fired 0.4 seconds later, the plane had rolled past the horizontal, and she was ejected downward into the water. She was killed instantly. The entire event unfolded in less than twenty seconds.

On November 12, 19 days after the crash, the Navy salvaged the plane and recovered her body, still strapped into the ejection seat. Her parachute failed to deploy due to the close proximity to the water when she ejected. The wreckage was in 3,700 feet of water.


As is standard practice in fatal mishaps, separate Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Naval Safety Center Mishap investigations were conducted. The JAG report cited mechanical malfunction as the primary cause, and this became the official Navy position to the public.

The Mishap Investigation Report (MIR) came to a different conclusion, however, citing pilot error as the primary factor. Navy MIRs (now called Safety Investigation Reports) are rarely made public. Rumors abounded that the investigation had found pilot error to be a contributing factor, despite a Navy press release to the contrary. The privileged report was later leaked by someone with access to it.

As with most approaches to a carrier landing, Hultgreen's incident was videotaped by two cameras. The tape shows an overshooting turn onto final, then apparent engine failure, followed by an audible wave-off and gear-up command from the Landing Signal Officer. Segments shown on broadcast television concluded with the rapid sequence of aircraft stall, roll, crew ejections, and impact with the water.

At the time, her death was controversial since it was the first death of a female fighter pilot, and many critics argued that she was not qualified for the duty of flying combat aircraft. Since that time, however, over 100 female pilots have qualified and successfully flown fighter aircraft.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Kara Spears Hultgreen was killed on 25 October 1994, at sea, while attempting to land on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Her body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean and buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:

Her call signs were "Hulk" or "She-Hulk", for her ability to bench press 200 pounds, her height (5 ft 10 in.), and a play on her last name. She was given the call sign of "Revlon" after she appeared on television wearing makeup.

Honoree ID: 2660   Created by: MHOH




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