The Marine Corps has hired an independent review team lead to look at Class C aviation mishaps.  Class C mishaps, the lowest class, have doubled over the last year amid the current aviation readiness crisis.

FighterSweep community, we had a recent article regarding the state of military aviation readiness.  Now it appears the Class C mishap rate has increased twofold. While we cannot say for certain that the two are directly linked, we are worried that if action is not taken soon, higher level mishaps may also increase.

Top level flag officers acknowledged before the House Armed Services Committee that there is no direct link yet between the mishap rate and readiness. However, it appears the United States Marine Corps is getting serious about why Class C aviation mishaps have doubled.  LtGen Jon Davis said the USMC is sending out a independent team to “meet and see first hand what is going on with Marine pilots and aircrews.”

“These are the very best Marines we’ve ever had in the Marine Corps, so if they’re making mistakes, why?” Davis said.  “We’ve already looked at it, I obviously don’t have it right, or I’m not seeing the problem the way I should. I want someone else to kind of help me see it more clearly.”

Class A mishaps – involve the loss of an aircraft or more than $2 million in damages. Those have remained steady over the last four or so years.  Class B mishaps range from $500,ooo to $2 million. Class C mishaps – which involve damages of $50,000 to $500,000 or personnel injuries – have doubled compared to last year.  Many think it might be a readiness problem more than anything.  So could readiness rates be a causal factor?

The readiness problems stem from 3 main issues:

  1. Operational Tempo has been high which burns through aircraft life expectancy
  2. Sequestration and other budget deficiencies have hampered maintenance budgets
  3. The delay in the F-35, particularly when you put all of your eggs in one basket, has contributed to relying on older planes to fill the gap.

With flying being a skill that can atrophy quickly, you have to think readiness can be at least a component of mishaps.

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A USMC AV-8B pulls up to the tanker to get fuel during a WTI sortie. ©Curt Jans--All Rights Reserved
A USMC AV-8B pulls up to the tanker to get fuel during a WTI sortie. ©Curt Jans–All Rights Reserved

Here is a sobering statistic: Out of 1,065 aircraft on Marine Corps flight lines, only 443 were ready to fly — a 41.5 percent readiness rate. The USMC strives for an ideal rate of 75 percent.  Aircraft are old. They get bent and break more easily as time marches on, particularly if the aircraft are not able to go into depot level maintenance.

There is certainly plenty of blame to go around.  Mismanagement of funding, lack of prioritization, Congressional budget cuts.  Fingers are pointing pretty much everywhere.

But the good news is the USMC is making an effort to figure out what it can do to make the status quo change for the better. These types of strategic changes take time and there will not be a quick answer. Hopefully, answers can be found on how to prevent some of the lesser mishaps. LtGen Davis has put down a good starting marker.

“This study will  focus on mainly the ground mishaps,” Davis explained. “It could be a pilot taxiing an airplane (and having an accident), or it could be a towing mishap or a marine falling off of an airplane. Whatever it is, it leads to a degraded readiness position. We need to get our arms around that.”

You can read the full article here.

Top photo:  A VFA 147 F-18 Hornet has a basket from a tanker drouge attached to the refueling probe. Photo from www.aircraftresourcecenter.com