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Pilot McCain Was Heroic, Crash-prone

John McCain's heroism and courage as a Vietnam-era pilot has never been challenged, but his decision-making in the cockpit was questioned by his superiors, according to records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

McCain, the son and grandson of Navy admirals, was considered to be a good flier, but Navy investigators cast doubt on his judgment during three mishaps in the 1960s.

Ralph Vartabedian and Richard Serrano write about one:

John McCain was training in his AD-6 Skyraider on an overcast Texas morning in 1960 when he slammed into Corpus Christi Bay and sheared the skin off his plane's wings.

McCain recounted the accident decades later in his autobiography. "The engine quit while I was practicing landings," he wrote. But an investigation board at the Naval Aviation Safety Center found no evidence of engine failure.The 23-year-old junior lieutenant wasn't paying attention and erred in using "a power setting too low to maintain level flight in a turn," investigators concluded.
In a 1961 incident, McCain's was flying in Spain when his Skyraider jet hit a power line, sparking a local blackout. Four years later, he crashed a T-2 training jet in Virginia.

McCain's campaign didn't comment but friends described him as a skilled pilot who liked to push the envelope.