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Marine pilot killed in F/A-18C Hornet crash in California

A pilot from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, was killed in an F/A-18C Hornet crash Thursday night.

The crash was during a training mission around 10:30 p.m. near Twentynine Palms, California, according to a press release.

First Lt. Gabriel Adibe, a spokesman for MCAS Miramar, said the crash is under investigation. Officials are waiting for more information, he said, but no one else seemed to be involved in the crash. The name of the pilot will be released after the immediate family is notified.

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the head of Marine Aviation, told reporters on Friday that he did not have any details about the crash, adding that his thoughts and prayers are with the family of the Hornet pilot.

Budget cuts, problems getting spare parts and other issues have sharply reduced the number of training hours that Marine Corps pilots are flying.

Davis said he is "not happy and not satisfied" with the amount of flight hours that all Marine pilots are getting. In 2015, only F-35 pilots got the flight hours they needed, he said.

When asked if the reduced flying hours put Marine Corps pilots' lives at risk, Davis replied, "I do not think we're unsafe, but we're not as proficient as we should be."

Ideally, F/A-18 pilots should be flying for 16.2 hours per month. Last summer, F/A-18 pilots hit their "low ebb" of 8.8 flight hours per month per pilot, which was "unacceptable," he said.

For the past two years, the Marine Corps has been working to give pilots more flight hours, Davis said. In June, all pilots received 0.7 more flight hours than they flew in May, said Davis, who described the improvement as a "gain of inches."

The Marine Corps' readiness recovery plan will be fully implemented by 2020, Davis said. That means Marine squadrons will be flying the desired number of hours at the appropriate readiness levels by then, said Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Clark Carpenter.

Check back at marinecorpstimes.com for more updates.

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