Commanders blame budget cuts for record number of military aircraft accidents

Smoke billows from the crash of a Blue Angels F/A-18 fighter jet in Smyrna, Tenn., Thursday, June 2, 2016 that claimed the life of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss. (Courtesy: Matt Bennett)

A wave of military aircraft accidents has top leaders concerned that too many lives are being lost and too much money wasted because of lack of training and decreased maintenance of aging aircraft.

Bottom line, they say, planes and funds are running short.

The military’s top brass blames “slashed budgets and aging fleets strained by prolonged conflict” for the recent spate of accidents, CNN reported.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force vice chief of staff told lawmakers recently: “25 years of continuous combat coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned top lines have made the Air Force one of the smallest, oldest and least ready in our history.”

Marine Corps General John Paxton told Congress several months ago, “If you don’t have the money and you don’t have the parts and you don’t have the maintenance, then you fly less.”

The Navy has suffered the heaviest losses. From October 2014 to April 2016, accidents in the sky cost the service more than $1 billion in damages.

Many trace the problems back to 2013, when sequestration caused the Navy to cut 10% of its maintenance crews for older planes like the F/A- 18. Making matters worse, delays with the F-35C –which is set to replace the old fighter jets– will only reach initial operating capability in 2018.

While all of the branches are feeling the effects of these budget cuts, the Marines suffered the deadliest military aviation tragedy in January– when 2 CH-53 helicopters crashed, killing 12 Marines. That aviation accident was a $110 million loss.

The helicopters involved in that crash have been described as “old and worn out.”
The aging F-16s have also been involved in some high-profile crashes – including one earlier this month in rural Georgia where two Air National Guard F-16C fighter jets collided. The pilots ejected safely in that incident. The F-16 entered service in 1978 and is set to be replaced by the long delayed F-35A.

The Army has also had its share of aviation issues, mainly involving the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters. A surge in the number of “Class A mishaps” has led Army officials to make more of an effort to increase training hours for helicopter pilots.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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