Captain “Alex” Hnarakis, USN (Ret.), passed away May 4, 2018.
Raised in Alexandria, VA, Alex was in the 13th Company at the Naval Academy. He raced USNA sailboats in the Annapolis-Newport, Newport-Bermuda, Marblehead-Halifax and Block Island races. As president of the Sport Parachute Club and USPA jumpmaster, he taught fellow midshipmen skydiving, amassing 210 jumps and competed at the Collegiate Nationals. He graduated from Annapolis with a BS in physics.
Post-graduation jumps included the first demonstration jump at the Washington Monument and jumps from the Blue Angels’ Fat Albert for a record all-military freefall formation of 28 jumpers.
His childhood dream to fly was sparked by reading about World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He flew F-14 Tomcats for six deployments in VF-1, VF-32, VF-142 and VF-103. He was a Navy Fighter Weapons School graduate. While at TOPGUN, he and his RIO were the subjects of California Magazine’s article, “TOP GUNS” by Ehud Yonay, credited as the inspiration for the 1986 movie Top Gun. A Navy Test Pilot School graduate and member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, he tested early F/A-18 night vision goggles and the Blue Angels artificial-feel spring.
He led Operation Desert Storm combat missions; was a VF-43 adversary instructor; and served the Pentagon Joint Staff, J-3, Joint Operations Division. Alex was XO, VF-142 on George Washington (CVN-73), highlighted by hosting WWII veterans on the transatlantic crossing for the D-Day 50th anniversary.
Alex was CO, VF-103 “Jolly Rogers” and the LANTIRN FLIR & Laser rapid prototype demonstration pilot, which added precision air-to-ground strike capability to the F-14. He led the first LANTIRN and night vision goggle capable Tomcats on deployment aboard Enterprise (CVN-65). “Bombcat,” an AirForces Monthly 2015 special edition, documented his squadron’s key contributions, as well as F-14 air-to-ground successes during its final ten years.
Alex was CO, VX-30; CO, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake; and Commander, Naval Test Wing Pacific, conducting weapons tests.
Education included MS Systems Management, University of Southern California and the Naval War College. He flew 23 aircraft, amassed 4,700+ flight hours (3,300+ hours F-14) and had 900+ arrested landings. Awards include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medals with V and Navy Commendation Medals with V.
Thankful to those he learned from along the way, Alex especially enjoyed flying sailors or flight test engineers in F-14 or F/A-18 fighters to experience first-hand the fruits of their labor.