Marine pilot killed in California Hornet crash

A Marine Corps pilot was killed Thursday when an F/A-18C Hornet went down during training near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Marine officials announced today.

The pilot and aircraft were attached to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine spokesman Maj. Christian Devine said.

The identity of the pilot has not been released, pending a 24-hour period following notification of family members.

F/A-18C Hornets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, taxi down the runway at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, during Red Flag-Alaska 16-2, June 7, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Donato Maffin

F/A-18C Hornets with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, taxi down the runway at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, during Red Flag-Alaska 16-2, June 7, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Donato Maffin

Officials said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

Speaking at a think tank event in Washington, D.C., on Friday, the Corps’ top aviation officer, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, offered thoughts and prayers for the families of the pilot, adding that he didn’t have all the details about the incident.

While Marine officials have testified this year that readiness challenges have resulted in significant reductions in flight hours for Marine pilots across nearly every aviation platform, Davis said he did not believe that was a contributing factor in the tragedy.

“I track [flight hours] each week. This particular unit was doing OK,” he said. He said he did not believe that reduced flight hours had made squadrons less safe, but he said the Corps was “not as proficient as we should be” in its aviation component.

This is the second fatal Hornet crash for the Marine Corps in the last 12 months. In October 2015, a Marine pilot was killed when a 3rd MAW F/A-18C aircraft attached to Marine Attack Fighter Squadron 232 crashed near Royal Air Force airfield Lakenheath in England during a flight from Miramar to Bahrain.

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