Marines Crew Obeyed the Rules, Until It Didn't

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Last week's terse, 70-page report of the Marine inquiry into the February 3 Italian ski lift tragedy blamed the jet fighter's crew for the deaths of 20 people. But a closer read yields an interesting discrepancy. On the one hand, the flight of the EA-6B Prowler was described as a hair-raising ride, in which the plane flew too low and too fast until the collision. On the other was the description of crew members, whom colleagues and commanders praised for their flying skills and professionalism. And all the 35 EA-6B flyers interviewed said they had never heard of anyone flying too low, too fast or doing improper stunts -- what Marine pilots call "flat hatting." It did strike some Pentagon officials as peculiar that there is a nickname for something the pilots say they never do and never heard of others doing.