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March 7th, 2012 · 39 Comments · General

The Facebook post, by good friend and fellow milblogger Will Dossel, caught my eye:  Breaking: Pilot dies in Israeli F-21 Kfir plane crash in Fallon.  Will’s comment of “More than a little concerned about this one…” echoed my immediate thoughts.

We all….the Facebook family, Navy family, aviation family, milblogger family, know of only one pilot flying Israeli Kfirs as a civilian contractor pilot up in Fallon – retired Navy Captain and former squadron commander Carroll “Lex” LeFon.  The group watching for updates grew till there were almost two dozen friends, associates, everyone, hanging on whatever news could be gleaned.

Will then passed some backchannel info he received from a friend there at Fallon, in the high desert of northwest Nevada, who saw the crash – yes, it likely was Lex.  Conditions, as best as I can gather, were not ideal – snowy, foggy, squirrely winds, in a single-engined rocketship of a fighter jet, the F-21 Kfir, about as fast an aircraft of that type and size can be – the only sonic boom I ever heard while airborne, inside a Tomcat, was when we took a Kfir close aboard in a head-on pass.

Details will emerge as time passes, but the heartbreak – the absolute heartbreak – of losing not only a friend and fellow naval aviator and milblogger, a beloved husband, father and son, a true patriot and hero to this nation, will never pass.

These words, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, are key:

When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return

Lex had retired, hung up his flight helmet and g-suit, having accomplished everything in life a man could possibly ask for.  But, that itch to fly stayed with him.  He became qualified to fly the Isareli F-21 Kfir in an aggressor role against TOPGUN students at the naval air station in Nevada.  Dangerous? Who cares? It was a job that got him away from that soul-sucking environment of a cubicle farm, and into a job he absolutely loved, a job in his blood…flying jets.  The end of one of his last posts at his blog, Neptunus Lex underscored this as he talked about what it was like landing a screaming F-21 on a relatively short runway – and the drogue chute designed to help slow you down, did not deploy:

It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.

But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.

Even snake wrestling beats life in the cube…”  Living live at its absolute maximum.  You gotta love it!

I met Lex only once, at the 2007 Milbloggers Conference here in DC.  We had exchanged a number of comments on each others blog.  He had linked to my Instapinch post about the return of the last F-14 airwing, shedding crocodile tears as he lampooned all the teary Tomcat fans (he, of course, was an A-7/F-18 pilot, single-seat to the max) – and I instantly received a couple hundred additional hits.  He was good.   Still, even with the cross-aeronautical platform bias and good-natured derogatory single-seat-vs-two-seat ephitets hurled in each others direction, we got together at the reception, and did some hand-flying as aviators are wont to do:

I don’t really know how to truly and sufficiently honor a man like Lex…a friend, fellow naval aviator, an absolute master with the written word.  Head over to his blog and just start reading.  You will come away a better person in mind, spirit and soul.

RIP and safe travels, Lex.  Prayers and hugs and tears go out to your family.  “Fair winds and following seas”, the traditional Navy farewell,  to a carrier aviator like you means a downwind recovery.  I wish you 30 knots of wind, down the angle, and the carrier with a bone in her teeth and itching to launch some aircraft.  Take care, my friend.  You will be…are…missed, and will always be remembered.  We’ll always save you a seat in the Dirty Shirt.


39 Comments so far ↓

  • MissBirdlegs in AL

    Thanks for this, Pinch.

  • oklso

    Well said Pinch. Exactly how I feel. He always brought back the excitement of being a Naval Aviator (especially for a current bus driver) with his flying blogs. His political analysis was spot on, at least from my perspective, but surprising at times too. A fine son of the Old Dominion. I will greatly miss his prose! OK underlined, for his last trap.

  • Pinch

    You nailed it too, oklso. He – the man, the blogger – was something special. I never came away from reading a post of his with anything but an improved something….state of mind? perspective? outlook? knowledge? whatever. The man touched people in more ways than one.

  • HomefrontSix

    Well said. He truly was something special.

  • J Carmichael

    Great post Pinch… Truly a said day…

  • Spade


    Don’t have anything to add on this but…

    “Top Gun”

    It’s supposed to be all caps. I learned that at Lex’s blog.

  • Pinch

    lol Spade….will fix that! Like I said, you never come away from Neptunus Lex without learning something! Thanks :)

  • SoCal Pir8

    Shocked, sadden beyond words when I read just moments ago of Lex. I immediately recalled the quote posted above. I, we, were living our post flight careers thru him and I loved every flight/mission along the way, green with envy.
    Today I will certaily hoist a Guinness for him.

  • Teresa

    A wonderful remembrance. Thank you.

  • Jim Howard

    I’ll always think of Captain LeFon as ‘the Skipper’, even though I’m a retired Air Force guy.

    I checked his blog every day without fail. His writing could put you in the cockpit of a fighter better than any other aviation writer I’ve ever read.

    And I’ve read them all.

    Beyond just his writings, he was clearly a really decent man, a real asset to the United States.

    He will be missed.

    I don’t think Lex will mind if I follow an Air Force tradition and give him a last toast, and throw the glass in the fireplace.

    • Buck

      I don’t have a fireplace to hurl my glass in to, Jim, but as a fellow retired Zoomie I’ll MOST certainly join you in that toast to Lex.

      Today is such a sad, sad day.

  • Shawn Wikle

    I cried when I saw the post on Instapundit this morning and cried again at your moving tribute to this amazing man. A man I can only admire from afar, my successes in life seem so trivial to what he accomplished.

  • Bob Reed

    Well said. A great memorial about an outstanding man.

  • spencer

    Pinch, your blog led me to his blog. I cant thank you enough. I traded emails with him a couple of times. Reading his take on the world made me a better person. I missed my chance at Military aviation but I got to live it through his eyes, and his incredible gift for writing. He was fair. Very fair. And critical at the right time and in the right way. He also seemed very warm. Im sad having never met him.

    Im really gonna miss his posts. May his family find peace.

  • Adriane

    May his family find strength and be comforted …

  • Buck

    So very well-said, heartfelt, and eloquent. Thanks, Pinch.

  • virgil xenophon

    Really nice comments, Pinch, very nice..Lexs’Place preserved my sanity–what little I have left in this crazy world. He will be sorely missed by us all…he may not have been the best fighter pilot in the world (tho he was very good) nor the “best” wordsmith in the world (tho he was also very good–extraordinary, really) rather, Lex was simply the best MAN..

    • Curtis

      Yes, he was.

      My mom called today to remind me that John Carter was coming out this weekend. He too was a man of Virginia.

  • Idaho Joe

    Thanks Pinch,

    I’ve got one of those pictures too. Today it’s my desktop picture, and it’s going to stay there a while.

    I’ve lost a good friend, and the world is a darker place today.

  • Glenn M. Cassel AMH1(AW) Retired

    Taken too soon……
    I will miss reading his wonderful posts.
    Reading the blog list isn’t going to be the same any more, at all.

  • buddy larsen

    A very strong, very graceful tribute, sir.

  • MadconductorTom

    Very well done Mr Pinch.
    The whole contry lost something valuable today.
    Most of them don’t know it.
    Those of us who read his blog are hurting.
    Farewell Lex.

  • Larry Sheldon

    Some time when it is decent to do so, I would like to know if my understanding is correct, that he was flying the Israeli plane as an enemy for training.

    If that is correct, I’d like to understand why.

  • Pinch


    Its something we call “dissimilar air combat training”, acronymed in the military tradition as DACT. The enemies we will face in the skies of any battlespace will be using aircraft and tactics different from ours (in most cases…Iran still has a bunch of F-14s, F-4s, F-5s and a few other combat aircraft that we sold the Shah in the 70s). The adversary role that Lex was flying was to mimic enemy tactics in an aircraft (Kfir) that is really unlike anything we have. The Kfir is a designed after a French Mirage aircraft, and its use is just to give the TOPGUN students a experience with an aircraft that looks and uses tactics that are nothing like our own aircraft and tactics. We’ve been doing this DACT for many years – since the early 80s, at least. I flew against Kfirs when I first joined the F-14 world in 1986. Nothing strange about it being an Israeli aircraft.

    • Larry Sheldon

      Thanks. Still think it is odd.

      And would you please fix the worst of the awful typos for me?

  • Pinch

    Fixed…and you are very welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Uncle Mikey

    Lex’s “Rhythms” is the best written series I’ve read about life in a carrier, amazing on so many levels. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

  • Pinch

    Uncle Mikey,

    Here’s the link to Lex’s “Rhythms”

    It really is, as you said, the best written series about life on a carrier. Thanks for mentioning that.

  • Michelle

    Great picture, seems to capture his spirit somehow. The only other way to do I think would be in the cockpit. And with his family. Words seem like such a pathetic substiute – particularly the word condolences – but it’s such a huge loss for his readers, his friends, his country and most of all his family. I am so so sorry.

  • Scary

    Good post Pinch, I was depressed all day when I heard the news. Lex helped me with some of the flying stories I’ve been writing and I’ll miss him greatly.

  • Pinch

    Thanks, Scary. He helped a lot of us, in many different ways. Thanks for the link to your blog. I’ll catch up on my reading over the next few days with your posts.

  • Padre Harvey

    Thanks for this.
    Have put up my own thoughts on my blog as well:


    I really question the reason you titled this
    blog, “Lex”. In any event . I loved
    the article!Regards,Alfie

  • Surfcaster

    Good to read then, good to read now. Thank you again.

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