Robert Wayne Sides Lieutenant – Commander, United States Navy

Courtesy of The Virginian-Pilot

August 11, 2001

VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – The Navy stopped searching Friday for two Virginia Beach-based aviators who disappeared along with their F-14 Tomcat in the Indian Ocean.

The crew was identified as Lieutenant Commander Robert Wayne Sides, the pilot, who had celebrated his 39th birthday Tuesday; and Lieutenant Richard Stephen Pugh, 30, the radar intercept officer.

Sides, of Scottsdale, Arizona, a graduate of the Top Gun fighter pilot school and the Air Command and Staff College with five operational tours of Asia behind him, had been in the Navy for 20 years. He was scheduled to be married when his squadron returned in September and was planning to retire from the Navy and begin civilian career, according to his sister, Stephanie Burwell of Virginia Beach.

“Our family is proud of him and his accomplishments, among those his training at Top Gun,” she said. “His humor, his generosity, his warmth will be missed. He will be missed.

“He was the best there was. We just hope that in his 10 seconds of fame he will appear as the great guy he was. Our family grieves, too, for the loss of his friend and RIO.”

Pugh resided in Virginia Beach with his wife. He had been in the Navy for six years. He earned an Army commission in 1991, then attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1995.

They were flying their fighter from the deck of the carrier Constellation, which is assigned to the Pacific Fleet, when they failed to return from a night-time training mission Thursday in the Bay of Bengal, the Navy said.

The carrier earlier had been in the Persian Gulf on a routine deployment and was headed back to its home port in San Diego.

An extensive search turned up no wreckage or other debris and no sign of the men. No communications were heard by the ship, nor were any distress messages heard, officials said.

Ships from the Constellation battle group, as well as aircraft from Carrier Air Wing Two conducted search efforts throughout the day and night, officials said.

Both men were assigned to Fighter Squadron Two at Oceana Naval Air Station. They left for deployment March 15 and were scheduled to return in September.

August 11, 2001

The Navy has called off the search for two aviators who were reported missing over the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday after their F-14 Tomcat fighter jet did not return to the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Constellation.

Lieutenant Richard Stephen Pugh, originally from Temecula, California, and Lt. Cmdr. Robert Wayne Sides of Scottsdale, Arizona, had been on a routine training mission over the Indian Ocean when they disappeared.

Both men are presumed dead, Navy officials said. The accident is still under investigation.

Pugh, 30, the plane's radar operator, had been in the Navy for six years. He lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with his wife, Jeanine, and 2-year-old daughter, Ashley.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful man,” said stepmother Sandra Pugh yesterday.

She said Pugh had wanted to join the Navy since he was 8, partly to follow in his father's footsteps. Carl Pugh, now retired and living in Temecula, served in the Navy for 32 years.

Pugh's stepsister, Beth Agan of Escondido, said he worked hard to become a Navy pilot. But his eyesight wasn't good enough to fly fighter planes, so he became a radar operator, which allowed him to take the back seat.

“It was his life's dream,” Agan said.

Pugh graduated from Temecula Valley High School in 1989. He finished his training at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in ocean engineering.

Sides, 39, the F-14's pilot, had been in the Navy for more than 20 years. He was a graduate of Top Gun, the air combat school for fighter pilots, and had completed five operational tours in Asia. He was not married.

The aircraft was from Fighter Squadron 2, based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. The Constellation had recently left the Arabian Sea.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 11/17/1980 – 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/07/1962
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 08/28/2001
    BURIED AT: SECTION MC  (Memorial Section C) SITE 23-O


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 06/01/1995 – 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/22/1970
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 10/30/2001
    BURIED AT: SECTION MC  (Memorial Section C) SITE 22-O

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