Lt. Junior Grade Valerie Cappelaere-Delaney killed in jet crash
An Ellicott City native was one of the three Navy officers killed in a crash in a field near Spokane, Wash. Monday. Lt. Junior Grade Valerie Cappelaere-Delaney was a Naval aviator who graduated from the Naval Academy just a few years ago.
Everyone in Ellicott City knew her as Valerie Cappelaere. Her family says it's been just 48 hours since the jet piloted by their daughter crashed during a training mission.
“She would call us almost every day,” Doreen Cappelaere says. “We knew from flight to flight whether it was good or bad, but that Saturday flight was very happy.”
Cappelaere says her 26-year-old daughter had been training for months in a Prowler, a jet that jams electrical equipment of attacking aircraft.
“The previous call was not a good call, but that call Saturday was a really good call," her mother says.
Delaney, who had just celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary in February, had been training at night using night vision goggles.
“She was extremely frustrated because she was that close to finishing up her training and she only needed a few more flights," says Pat Cappelaere, her father.
The 2009 Naval graduate’s next and final training step was to learn to land on a fighter carrier. But Monday morning, shortly after take-off in Washington State, Lt. Delaney’s electric jammer slammed into a field.
At Ellicott City’s Centennial High School, where Delaney was an academic and athletic stand-out, the news of her tragic death is hitting her school adviser hard because she knew Delaney had lived for the Naval Academy.
“She is my benchmark. She is my standard. When students come to me and say they want to be in an academy, she’s the one I think of,” says Jennifer McKechnie.
When Delaney didn’t get admitted to the Naval Academy, she went to a prep school. Her younger sister spoke with her hours before her last flight.
“She was asking what I want for my birthday. Just shows how she was always thinking about other people," says Alison Cappelaere.
Delaney’s parent declined to say if their daughter was concerned about the 40-year-old Prowler she was flying, but did say there had been several recent delays due to repairs. They say the Prowler was to be phased out next year.
“She would always have different instructors so that instructor told her she had been one of the best students he’d flown with in a long time."
Delaney's husband is training on the newer version of the jet. The family is preparing for a burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
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