A Kolvoord Starburst was a dangerously complex flight maneuver performed by light spacecraft, considered one of the most spectacular feats of precision flying. A wrong move during the maneuver, even a slight one, could lead to a catastrophic collision.
The maneuver was performed by five light spacecraft flying in a circular formation, following with them crossing within ten meters of each other and flying off in the opposite direction, while opening their coolant interlocks and igniting their plasma trails as they make the crossover. When done successfully, the maneuver created a spectacular light pattern resembling a five-pointed star.
Starfleet Academy banned the Kolvoord Starburst in the 2260s following a training accident in which all five cadets attempting the maneuver were killed. In 2368, however, Nova Squadron, an elite group of cadets led by Nicholas Locarno, conspired to perform it at the end of the academic year in order to impress the guests attending the commencement demonstration. During a clandestine practice session near Titan, Joshua Albert lost control of his craft and caused a collision that resulted in the destruction of all five craft. Albert was killed, while the others were rescued via emergency transporter.
During the inquiry into the incident, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D ran simulations of the flight and correctly surmised that the cadets were attempting the maneuver, rather than the one on the approved flight plan. Captain Jean-Luc Picard confronted Cadet Wesley Crusher, a member of Nova squadron and former member of the Enterprise crew, about their findings but Crusher refused to answer.
Without direct evidence, the board ruled that the accident was due to pilot error on Albert's part. At the last minute, however, Crusher admitted to the full truth – that they were indeed attempting the Starburst and that Albert had confessed that he didn't feel ready but the others pressured him into performing.
The entire squad faced expulsion but Locarno, as team leader, took full responsibility for their actions and was the only one expelled. Crusher (and presumably the others) received severe academic consequences but was allowed to continue his studies. (TNG: "The First Duty")