HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Information from this story was gathered from several uncredited sources, i.e. memorial plaques, obituaries, ext.)
At approximately 11:30 a.m., June 22, 2018, Lt. Christopher “Bueller” Short, a U.S. Navy pilot, lost his life when an A-29 Super Tucano crashed over the Red Rio Bombing Range.
“A couple of weeks ago, a good friend and service member passed away during flying training at Holloman,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Cunningham, 586th Flight Test Squadron Light Attack Weapons Systems officer. “Lt. Short was a phenomenal pilot. I did not think anyone could love light attack more than I do, but he did. We love and cherish Chris’s memory and he is going to live on in our memories forever.”
Short, known affectionately by his peers as Bueller, was a dedicated pilot, husband and friend.
“We worked really closely with each other as a team for two months and it’s like we lost a brother,” said Maj. Ryan Bone, 586th Flight Test Squadron chief of scheduling. “It may sound weird only knowing someone for two months, but we all took it really hard. To be able to pay our tributes to him in a lasting fashion means a lot to us.”
In a celebration of Short’s life, dozens gathered on July 13, 2018, to put on a day full of memorial events and create a lasting symbol of his time at Holloman Air Force Base, starting with a hike in the Tularosa mountains.
“Typically on any given weekend throughout the six to seven weeks we were together, we would gather a group and push out for a hike,” said Maj. Jim Stokman, 586th Flight Test Squadron Light Attack Experiment Operations Sections Chief. “Coming out, getting into nature, talking and enjoying the quiet and scenery after a long week is what it was all about.”
The hike went through a mountain trail that Short and his friends would hike several times throughout their tour at Holloman.
“We finished a portion of the trail that Bueller wanted to finish while he was here,” said Cunningham. “We would go hiking every Sunday morning, on our off time while we were flying out of Holloman. The first time I sent out a message that said ‘meet here at 5:30 a.m.,’ Chris was the first guy to show up. That became a weekly tradition where every Sunday morning we would get up early and we would go for a hike in the beautiful mountains surrounding Holloman Air Force Base. When Bueller passed we got the idea of dedicating something to him in the mountains overlooking the valley. Today we finished the hike for him and dedicated a bench in his honor.”
At the end of the Rim Trail in the Tularosa basin, a bench, embedded with Short’s name, was placed in his honor. The Rim Trail was Short’s final hike that he was never able to finish.
Following the hike, dozens gathered at Holloman for a final flyover topped off by a ceremonial piano burn. The burning of a piano is a tradition that dates back to the Battle of Britain, toasting the end of a pilot’s life.
Lt. Christopher “Bueller” Short was born on April 24, 1986. He was his class valedictorian when he graduated high school in 2004. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Aviation Flight Operations from Westminster College in 2008.
Short completed primary flight training in Pensacola, Florida, in 2009 and advanced strike fighter training in Kingsville, Texas, in 2010. After receiving his “wings of gold,” he was selected to fly F/A-18 Super Hornets in Oceana, Virginia, where he completed training at VFA-10 and VFA-32. During his time at VFA-32, Bueller completed a combat tour in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, flying off the deck of the USS Harry Truman, protecting troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Next, he received orders to VFC-12 where he was chosen to attend the Navy’s premier “TOPGUN” adversary course, graduating first in his class.
In 2018, seeing the great potential in the latest Light Attack aircraft, Bueller volunteered and was hand-selected as one of seventeen aircrew to attend the Light Attack Experiment, Phase II at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.
This loss has been felt Department of Defense wide, affecting the lives of everyone who met Short. Since his death, many have stepped forward to express the impact he had on their lives. He will be remembered as a thoughtful friend, a man of integrity, a man of honor and one amazing pilot.
“I think a lot of us will see Holloman again,” said Bone. “And when we do, we will be back here to pay our respects. He was a quiet professional in the aircraft, and outside of the aircraft he had a love and a zest for life.”