Above: Capt. Ted Harduvel was a fighter pilot and he looked the part. Tall, broad-shouldered with a rakishly handsome countenance and a sculpted jaw, Ted resembled a movie star. His world, however, was reality. He was a USAF FIGHTER WEAPONS SCOOL-HONORED GRADUATE known in Navy lingo as TOP GUN. His call sign was “Gamble” not because he took chances, but because he always calculated the odds. By 1982, at age 35, he had racked up 11 years as a fighter pilot and was one of the more experienced at flying the new F-16 Fighting Falcon. The plane was the first of its kind, a supersonic, single-engine, all-electric fighter jet. Sleek, light, and deadly, its controls were directed through a system of wires, no cables or pulleys to break. Therein, lay both its strength and its weakness, for, like many prototypes, the F-16 had its flaws. Ted Harduvel knew that term and didn’t like the F-16. He told his wife, Janet, that if he ever crashed, it would be the failure of the airplane. (Janet Sciales, commentary by Myron Papadakis)
Ted Harduvel was born on 28 October 1947. He was the son of Theodosius Theodore Harduvel who emigrated in the early 1900s from Leonidion and Poulithra in Arcadia district, Peloponnese. He enlisted in the Army to get his citizenship and fought in France during WW1. His mother was Luxembourg and English named Margaret M Cooper. Except for Ted the couple also had another son, John Harduvel, an MIT graduate is an aerospace engineer who worked for McDonnell Douglas, and a sister, Maria, an ultrasound tech living in Chicago. Ted joined the Air Force after his father died in 1971. He was working on his Master’s Degree in Physics at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. The Vietnam War was on, Ted had a low draft number, so rather than join the Army, he volunteered for the Air Force. Since he was a college graduate, he went to Officers Training School in 1971 graduating as a distinguished graduate, and got selected for pilot training in 1972. He completed his Undergraduate Pilot Training in Webb AFB Texas and got assigned to fighters at MacDill, FLA, in December 1972 where he took his training on F-4 Phantom. Ted met his wife Janet Sciales (who was also half Greek and half Italian) in March of 1973. He was so proud of his heritage and when he first met his wife he told her that he was a Spartan and that he would come home with his shield or on it, a phrase the Spartan mothers told their sons before going to battle.
He was stationed in Europe at Hahn AFB in Germany from 1973-1977 flying with the 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS). It was there that he won Junior Officer of the Quarter. Upon his return to the United States, Ted attended the F-4 Central Instructor School at Homestead AFB, FLA, and F-4 Fighter Weapons School (the TOP GUN Program of the Air Force) in the fall of 1978 at Nellis AFB in Nevada. He came back to ΜacDill in March 1979 as a Fighter Weapons School Graduate and in December of that year, he and Janet had their daughter Kiki born. He got selected for the F-16s in the summer of 1980 and was in the 13th TFS when he won the Top Gun Turkey Shoot competition. During those days he was the wing weapons officer for both F-4 and F-16. He was posted to Korea in March 1982 and joined the 80th FS and won the Top Gun Award there two weeks before he was killed in his F-16.
Captain Harduvel’s tragic crash occurred on November 15, 1982, near Kunsan Air Base in South Korea. Harduvel, an experienced military pilot and flight instructor, was leading a flight of three F-16A fighter aircraft on a routine training mission. The other two pilots accompanying Harduvel were Captain David L. Moody, the subject of the training exercise, and Captain Andy C. Denny, who flew behind the other planes in a chase position. The planes were flying at an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet and an airspeed of 480 knots. About eight minutes into the flight, Harduvel radioed the other pilots,
“Knock it off. One has a problem. Two join me. Three continue the route.”
After sending this radio message, Harduvel began a hard left-hand turn back toward the direction of the airbase. Before Moody could join up with Harduvel’s craft, Harduvel left available clear air and flew into a small cloud. He emerged from this cloud, and then entered a solid cloud bank. Both Moody and Denny testified that at the time they last saw Harduvel’s airplane, it appeared to be flying normally. Although there were no witnesses to the final seconds of the flight, Harduvel for some reason became disoriented in the clouds and inadvertently allowed the plane to go into a steep dive. Shortly after turning into the cloud, Harduvel’s aircraft hit the back of a mountain ridge at a downward angle of approximately sixty degrees, with wings level. Captain Harduvel was killed and the aircraft almost completely destroyed. Five hours later an Air Force team arrived at the Harduvel home in suburban Tampa. Janet Harduvel opened the door, took one look at the officers’ faces, and asked,
“Am I a widow?”
It was several days before the Airforce could recover remains and confirm that Ted Harduvel had indeed died on that remote Korean hill. At the memorial service, they eulogized a fallen Top Gun. They gave Janet a flag and a medal and announced that they wanted to promote Capt. Theodore Harduvel posthumously to the rank of Major. Then, they labeled the accident “pilot error” placed the blame on a dead man, and quietly swept Ted Harduvel under the rug. Janet couldn’t accept it. Ted Harduvel was no rookie. He had more F-16 time than most pilots in the Air Force at the time. He had been an instrument flight instructor and had graduated with honors from the elite Fighter Weapons School, the Air Force equivalent of the Navy’s Top Gun school. In fact, he had graduated near the top of his class in everything he had ever done. She decided to fight so as to clear her husband’s name. Ted’s crash dealt a sobering blow to other Air Force pilots. They realized that, if someone with the “Gamble’s” ability could die in the F-16, so could they. Almost as soon as Ted Harduvel was buried, Janet began hearing from other pilots that there was a coverup by the Air Force involved in his death. As early as the first report the Air Force was pointing to pilot error. Because Ted had died in a smoking hole on a rainy day, halfway around the world it wasn’t expected that an independent investigation would be conducted.
The lawyer who would help Janet was Howard Acosta helped by lawyers and aircraft accident investigators Sam Taylor and Myron Papadakis, an ex USN carrier pilot and also a Greek American. Actually, Sam Taylor was Myron’s mentor regarding accident investigations. According to the latter:
“I felt drawn to Ted Harduvel and I identified with him. Like me, he was a Greek, the son of a Greek immigrant. His widow was half-Greek and the combination brought memories of my father and his struggles as a young immigrant in New York. It summoned the memory of my father telling me to “never turn your back on another Greek if you can help him.” At age 42, I was confronted with just such a chance”.
Janet was willing to fight to the end. She told Papadakis:
“If you believe the Air Force,” said Janet, “then Top Gun forgot all his training. He forgot how to fly instruments, he forgot everything he had learned in 11 years of flying and he got incredibly stupid instantly. I’ll tell you, I just don’t believe that. Do you?”
That was a start of a battle that she wasn’t willing to lose.
Above: After returning from overseas duty in Hahn AFB, Germany, Ted Harduvel became an F-4 Phantom instructor in Homestead AFB and also graduated from the USAF FWS in Nellis AFB. He then posted in MacDill AFB and specifically in 13th TFS which at the time had training duties for Phantom crews. During his days as a “Panther”, he won the Top Gun Turkey Shoot competition. Note his FWS patch at his shoulder as well as his flying helmet decoration with the 13 and the “Panther” claws. (Gerrit Kok collection and Janet Sciales)
Middle: Ted in a happy mood in front of the 10th TFS squadron insignia, in Hahn AFB, Germany, during his first overseas deployment. (Janet Sciales)
Below: U.S. Air Force flight line personnel of the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hahn Air Base, Germany, waiting for snowy conditions to clear before guiding a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II aircraft out onto the runway during exercise “Salty Rooster” on 15 April 1978. The F-4E is equipped with an AN/ALQ-119 jamming pod. (USAF)
Left: A 31st TFW F-4E Phantom waits for the next training mission at Homestead AFB. Harduvel became an F-4E instructor while based there. Homestead AFB was also the place where the first Hellenic Air Force Phantom crews trained, before the delivery of the “Peace Icarus” F-4Es during 1974. (Eric Tamer)
Above: F-16A Block 15D, #810692 was the fighter in which the Greek American pilot lost his life due to electrical problems on his jet, during a low-level training mission near Taejon, South Korea. The first major change in the F-16, the Block 15 aircraft featured larger horizontal stabilizers, the addition of two hardpoints to the chin inlet, an improved AN/APG-66(V)2 radar, and increased capacity for the underwing hardpoints. Block 15 also gained the Have Quick II secure UHF radio. To counter the additional weight of the new hardpoints, the horizontal stabilizers were enlarged by 30%. Block 15 is the most numerous variant of the F-16, with 983 produced. The last one was delivered in 1996 to Thailand. According to Myron Papadakis: “In my opinion, the outcome blaming Ted was an absolute must to ensure continued sales… over time the F-16 electrical problems and insulation problems were corrected. Many lost ac and several deaths… now it is a mature and reliable agile lightweight fighter. In 1982 it was beset with electrical problems.” Who knows. Maybe Theodore Harduvel loss was also the reason those problems to be solved and the F-16 become the main fighter used by NATO and allied Air Forces today. (Tom Cooper)
Above: Myron Philippos “Pappy” Papadakis was born In New York, NY in 1940. He was the son of an immigrant Greek who came to the USA alone at age 16, served in the Army as a drill instructor in WWI. Obtained a Ph.D. Magna Cum Laude from Columbia University and retired as a research chemist after years as a Professor Emeritus. (Dr. Phillipos E. Papadakis). Pappy graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Nebraska in 1963, served as a US Navy Officer, Navy carrier Pilot, and second tour Navy Research and Development Test Pilot. He then flew both domestic and international for Delta Airline Inc. He has Captained B737, B727, B757, B767, Lockheed TriStar, and Boeing 767-400NG aircraft. His logbook shows 23,500+ accident-free flight hours in 40 different aircraft. He has landed aboard aircraft carriers. (Shang Ri La CV38, CVs Lake Champlain39, CVs Essex 9, CVsWasp11, and CVs Lexington16.) Pappy attended Law school graduating with a Juris Doctorate degree in 1974. He has published extensively including two reference Legal textbooks and over 40 professional journal articles. In his lifetime he has evaluated, investigated, or helped litigate over 450 separate aircraft accidents. The International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) awarded him their yearly 2013 Jerome Lederer International Air Safety Award signifying technical excellence in Aircraft Accident Investigation. In his spare time, Papadakis has taught Aviation Law and Product Liability Law from 1980 through 2018. The ISASI award suggests Pappy is a very experienced air Safety Investigators.
In 1985, Harduvel’s widow filed a lawsuit against General Dynamics claiming an electrical malfunction, not a pilot error, as the cause. A jury awarded the plaintiff $3.4 million in damages. She and her lawyers proved that wire chafing was responsible for Ted’s death. Air Force knew of wire chafing by 1979 or 1980, well before Harduvel’s crash in 1982. Indeed, much of General Dynamics’ knowledge of wire chafing came from Air Force field reports. Even if General Dynamics shared knowledge of chafing, it failed to inform the Air Force of the “seriousness” of the chafing problem, causing the Air Force to take insufficient preventive measures. A maintenance training film, which states that uncorrected chafing problems can lead to “disastrous” consequences. Because the film was released to the Air Force only after Harduvel’s crash, Janet and her lawyers contend that General Dynamics at that time was withholding knowledge of the true seriousness of the chafing problem, specifically that chafing could lead to a fatal loss of aircraft. General Dynamics presented uncontradicted evidence that there had been no reports of a crash caused by chafing, and no reports of navigation instrument failure due to chafing, and no reports of a fire in the right strake area of an F-16 and convinced the judge that he could not be blamed for. However, it’s common sense that such an incident could occur and might happen in Ted’s case. Air Force technical orders concerning inspections for chafing reveal that the government was aware of the seriousness of the problem. For example, TCTO-1078, in which the Air Force mandated inspections for chafing at 100-hour intervals, listed numerous areas that must be inspected, including essential aircraft systems and the very right strake panels on which Janet’s lawyer evidence focused. The order stated that ” [f]ailure to accomplish this inspection may result in loss of one or more systems caused by a chafed harness.” This order was issued in September 1982, over two months prior to Harduvel’s crash. Technical order 1F-16A-508, dated March 22, 1982, warned that chafing could lead to electrical shorting. Rl6-104. Other technical orders in Exhibit 48-E similarly warn that failure to accomplish them may result in electrical shorts and loss of aircraft systems.
In 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the contractor had immunity to lawsuits, overturning the previous judgment. The court remanded the case to the trial court “for entry of judgment in favor of General Dynamics”. The final decision was based upon Boyle v. United Technologies Corp case in 1988. The Court recognized that in certain areas of “uniquely federal interests,” state law must be preempted, and if necessary replaced, by federal common law. One such area of uniquely federal interest is the government’s procurement of military hardware. The Court grounded the contours of the defense in the “discretionary function” exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2680(a), that protects the United States from liability for its agents’ performance of duties involving discretionary decisions. 108 S.Ct. at 2514-2518. Without the defense, the government’s own tort immunity for its discretionary functions would be undermined. Contractors held liable for design features that were the subject of discretionary approval by the government would predictably pass on the costs of liability, ultimately imposing costs on the government that its immunity was intended to preclude. Although the case closed in favor of General Dynamics, Janet’s cause was justified when the Air Force admitted that the accident was not Ted’s fault and his military file remained clean. Ted was a real TOP GUN within USAF with numerous distinctions and awards and that was beyond doubt. A true Spartan left this world upon his shield of steel, the venerable F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The accident and subsequent trial were the subjects of the 1992 film Afterburn. You can read about the film at the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterburn_(film)
Left: Theodosius Hardouvel (Hardouvelis) poses with his military uniform during WW1. Like many first-generation Greek Americans he joined the US Army in order to get American citizenship and if survived to get his own share in the American dream. (Janet Sciales)
Middle: Janet Sciales Harduvel and her daughter Kiki in front of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, the fighter which took Ted’s life due to fault caused by wire chaffing. F-16 was the first USAF jets equipped with the new Fly By Wire Technology and before becomes a stable fighter had plenty of problems during his operational debut. Regarding Myron Papadakis, Janet wrote to the Greeks in Foreign Cockpits team: “The lawyer who was the best wingman anyone could ever have, who relentlessly pursued General Dynamics for us is also Greek – Myron Papadakis – he was a Navy fighter pilot. He got an amazing amount of information that helped our case from another Greek pilot he met while investigating my case in Salt Lake City. I do not remember the guy’s name, but he and I laughed to ourselves about the “Greek mafia” and the honor code we Greeks live by and so we have to stick together.”
Right: Afterburn movie was an HBO production which brought Ted’s case and the Janets fight to clear her husband’s military file from blaming him for the accident with his F-16 in South Korea. The protagonists were Laura Dern, Robert Loggia, and Vincent Spano.
A Very Special Thanks to Dimitrios Vassilopoulos From Greeks in Foreign Cockpits For Permission to use this article for our Website to Remember Captain Ted Harduvel