The U.S. Navy announced on Saturday it would suspend all flight operations to conduct safety reviews and training after three recent crashes, including one this week in Imperial County that killed five U.S. Marines.
Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of naval air forces, ordered more than 300 naval aviation units that are not deployed in the United States or overseas to take a one-day break on June 13 to review their security procedures and practices.
Deployed units will conduct the review “as soon as possible,” the Navy said.
“In order to maintain our force’s readiness, we must ensure that the safety of our personnel remains one of our top priorities,” said Cmdr. said Zachary Harrell. “We understand that the most valuable resource we have is our staff, and we just want to make sure that we do our best to keep them safe while we train and operate.”
The security break does not apply to the US Marine Corps.
The order comes after three crashes this month involving US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft. The cause of accidents is investigated.
On June 3, Navy pilot Lt. Richard Bullock was killed when his F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft crashed in the desert in the Trona general area of San Bernardino County during of a training mission.
Another accident on Wednesday killed the five US Marines aboard an MV-22B Osprey during a training mission near Glamis in Imperial County, about 150 miles east of San Diego, near the borders with Arizona and Mexico. The plane was based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton with Marine Aircraft Group 39 and crashed around 12:25 p.m. near Coachella Canal Road and Highway 78.
The Marines killed were Cpl. Nathan E. Carlson, 21, of Winnebago, Ill.; Captain Nicholas P. Losapio, 31, of Rockingham, NH; Cpl. Seth D. Rasmuson, 21, of Johnson, Wyo.; Capt. John J. Sax, 33, of Placer, Calif.; and launches Corporal. Evan A. Strickland, 19, of Valencia, New Mexico
On Thursday, a Navy helicopter with four crew members crashed near El Centro while on a training flight. One person suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was released from hospital, Harrell said in an interview.
The incidents follow several other crashes across the country that have reignited military aviation safety concerns — including from members of Congress — that date back years.
On Monday, two airmen were injured when an AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed near a military base in southern Alabama, officials said. In March, a Marine MV-22B Osprey crashed in Norway and killed four people.
Spurred on by the crashes, Congress may tighten military aviation safety reporting requirements, according to Defense One, a military news site.