Recent comments from the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, made clear that 2017 was far from a banner year for Marine Corps aviation in terms of safety. The 10 Class A aviation mishaps — mishaps involving manned aircraft — are the most in over a decade. Despite the age of aircraft and operational commitments around the world, the commandant explained that the high rate of aviation mishaps was not generally due to the material condition of the airplanes. The 10 Class A mishaps, where a Class A mishap is defined as an accident that resulted in death, a permanent total disability, or more than $2 million in damage, are reminiscent of another difficult time in aviation safety history. The previous spike in aviation mishaps, in 2004, was a watershed year for aviation safety in the Marine Corps.
By any metric, fiscal 2017 was a deadly year for Marine aviation. The Marine Corps had 12 Class A mishaps, which result in death or damage of more than $2 million, according to data from the Naval Safety Center. Nineteen Marines and one sailor were killed in three separate crashes between December 2016 and August 2017.