Marine wing commanders are being ordered to take ”an operational pause” within the next week, in the wake of three F/18 crashes in just the last two months.
The 24-hour stand-down order is coming from the head of Marine Aviation, Lt. Gen Jon Davis, and applies to all non-deployed squadrons. A spokeswoman told Marine Corps Times that the commanders can decide which day to take the pause, “during which aircraft are typically inspected.”
While there was no official statement about what prompted Davis’ decision– the order follows a string of crashes involving F/A-18’s, two of which were fatal.
Earlier this week, near Naval Air Station Fallon, a Navy pilot safely ejected from a Hornet that was on loan from the Marine Corps. Just a few days before that incident in Nevada, a Navy TOPGUN school graduate was killed when his F/A-18C crashed near Twentynine Palms– during a training mission. In early June, another crash involving an F/A-18 Hornet with the Navy’s elite demonstration squadron claimed the life of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, a Blue Angels pilot.
During an event in Washington earlier this week, Davis said: “I do not think we’re unsafe, but we’re not as proficient as we should be…We don’t let units fly that are unsafe.”
Only about 35% of the entire inventory of fixed-and rotary- wing aircraft were able to fly last summer and with fewer aircraft flying, pilots aren’t getting the flight hours they need, Davis said.
It’s been widely reported in recent months that budget cuts and wear and tear from 15 years of straight combat have taken a toll on Marine aviation. It also isn’t helping that the transition to the F-35 joint strike fighter has been plagued by problems and delays.
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