MICHAEL R. COMPTON, MAJ, USMC
Michael Compton '71
Date of birth: unknown
Date of death: July 18, 1984
From the 1971 Lucky Bag:
Michael was lost when the helicopter he was a passenger in crashed shortly after takeoff on July 18, 1984.
USNA 1971 does not list him as an operational loss.
From The Washington Post on October 2, 1986:
A defense contractor has been accused of allowing a Marine Corps officer to take a fatal flight on a civilian model of a helicopter that had been painted to resemble a higher performance military craft.
Relatives of the dead Marine made the accusation in a lawsuit filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court against McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co., seeking $2.5 million in damages for the July 1984 death of 35-year-old Michael R. Compton.
Compton, a Marine Corps major from Stafford County, was killed along with a company test pilot when the helicopter, operating out of a facility in Arizona, crashed and burned.
The suit alleges that the aircraft, which was being used for "marketing survey purposes," was actually a civilian helicopter that had been altered to appear to be a military craft by the addition of a missile array and camouflage painting. The helicopter was made by Hughes Helicopter Inc., which has since been acquired by McDonnell Douglas.
"We're charging that Hughes Helicopters turned its back on a decade of technology in failing to equip the aircraft with a crashworthy fuel system," said William O. Snead III, the attorney for Compton's family.
A spokesman for the manufacturer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to the suit, Hughes solicited Compton's participation in the flight in an attempt to induce the Marine Corps to buy the helicopters.
The lawsuit claimed that the demonstration flights were conducted in a manner simulating operations in a "demanding, hostile and hazardous flight regime . . . " and were "choreographed by Hughes for the sole purposes of persuading potential military customers of the superior airworthiness and performance of the aircraft . . . . "
Those flights exposed "the aircraft to rigors of flight not contemplated in the basic design of the civilian aircraft," the suit said.
The suit was filed on behalf of Compton's wife Joan, his six children and his parents.