There continues to be concern among Marine Corps brass over the amount of flight time its pilots receive each month.
Marine pilots should be getting 16.5 hours of seat time each month, but most are averaging only seven to 11 hours per month. That's up from the six- to nine-hour average from a year ago, but it's still low enough to have a dangerous impact on the service's capability. Part of the problem, Stars and Stripes explains, is that the Corps is spending money for training and maintenance on deployed units instead of those at home.
If that story sounds familiar, it's because we reported something similar earlier this year. Back in January, we reported on the impact of the Corps' limited training and maintenance budgets on the CH-53 Sea Stallion fleet's safety and readiness. According to Lt. Gen. Jon M. Davis, this lack of flight hours could continue to contribute to so-called "Class A" incidents, like the fatal collision between two CH-53s off the coast of Hawaii earlier this year.
"A pilot flying only 100 hours a year is not really deployable and not really even safe," retired Cmdr. Chris Harmer, a former Navy SH-60F Sea Hawk pilot and a current senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Stars and Stripes. "If you are flying just seven to 11 hours per month you are not only completely non-proficient in combat, you are dangerously lacking in basic airmanship – takeoffs, navigation and landings. The pilots not in the deployment queue, their skills are eroding. They are a danger to themselves and their fellow Marines."