Marine Maj. Sterling Norton, 36, was killed when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed on July 28 during a live-fire nighttime training accident in Southern California.
Less than a week later, another F/A-18 from the same squadron crashed outside Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev. The pilot ejected safely – but it was the squadron’s third F/A-18 crash since October – two of which were fatal.
The Marine Corps, in response, conducted a one-day safety stand-down.
But such accidents are becoming more frequent – amid concerns that insufficient training and an aging fleet hobbled by a shortage of spare parts are contributing factors. A Fox News investigation reveals that, overall, the entire U.S. military saw a 48 percent increase in non-combat aviation crashes in 2014 and 2015 compared with the two prior years, based on press reports.
“They are going up partly because they are not getting the training they should get. They’re going up because maintenance is harder and harder to accomplish. They are going up because the airplanes are getting older and older,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, in an interview with Fox News.
Maj. Norton deployed in combat to Afghanistan in 2012. His commanding officer called him one of his best pilots. According to the Washington Post, a Marine who witnessed the crash said Norton’s jet “broke apart in midair” while in a dive preparing to fire weapons.
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