Charter boat captain Matt Wirt and friends were on an offshore diving trip Wednesday when an unusual transmission came over the radio.
A U.S. warship was asking for a radio check, and then asked the 28-foot charter boat named “Killing Time” if it would like a flyby, Wirt said Thursday in an interview with The News & Observer.
The boat was positioned 8 miles north of the Frying Pan Tower lighthouse, and about 40 miles off the coast of Wilmington, Wirt said.
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“I could hear a U.S. warship talking off and on throughout the day,” Wirt said. “It was kind of weird, they were asking for a radio check. I think they were just parlaying into a flyby.”
After accepting the offer, Wirt said the pilot of an F/A-18 fighter jet, also known as a Hornet, joined the conversation.
“They said 2 minutes,” Wirt said. “The pilot came on the radio and did one pass low off our bow that I thought was the flyby. I told him, ‘I thought you were going to buzz us like Tom Cruise did the tower in “Top Gun”.’”
Wirt said the pilot told him the first pass was made to verify they had located the intended boat.
“He kind of laughed and said, ‘We’re coming back around – we’ll be back in 30 (seconds),’” Wirt said. “He said, ‘We’re at your 6 now,’ and said 10 seconds and he came by pretty fast.”
Wirt posted video of the encounter on Facebook, showing the jet fly into the clouds after passing the charter boat. Wirt estimated the flyby was 80 feet off the ocean surface.
“I always tell my customers you never know what you’re going to see out there,” he said. “For all that just to come out of nowhere, it was a ‘proud to be an American’ moment.”
Navy communications officials did not immediately respond to an email request for information on the flyby.
A 2016 Business Insider report said it cost the Department of Defense $10,507 per hour to fly an F/A-18F Super Hornet.