All U.S. Marine Corps aviation units have been told they should take a day off from flying over the next week to review safety procedures and aircraft maintenance in the wake of two recent crashes, including a fatal accident July 28.
The recommedation from Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, does not apply to Marine aircraft operating in war zones, such as the Harrier jump jets that participated in airstrikes in Libya from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
"There will be an operational pause for all Marine Aircraft Wings, not including deployed units, for one day within the next seven business days," said Capt. Sarah Burns, a Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
The safety review, known as an "Op Pause," is described as "routine," and at least two days a year are mandated to "discuss best practices and to look at ways to continue to improve."
The decision to urge the pause was made following two crashes of F/A-18 Hornets in a five-day period.
On July 26, a Marine pilot was killed when his single-seat F/A-18C Hornet crashed during a night training mission at Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms California.
Then on Aug. 2, at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, a Navy pilot safely ejected when his F/A-18, also a C model, crashed into an open field, also at night.
Both crashes are being investigated.
The operational pause comes as Marine Corps is coping with a shortage of combat-ready aircraft and flying hours for pilots and crews in training.
The Marines say they have 85 F/A-18 aircraft that are "flyable," about half of the requirement for 171 in non-deployed units.
The Marine Corps was counting on replacing F-18s, with newer F-35s, but the expensive new fighter jet is years behind schedule, and the Marines are scrambling to keep the older jets flying, at times even using parts from planes that have been taken out of service and retired to the boneyard.