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Marines Order 24-Hour Halt to Flight Operations for All Aircraft

MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, await the green light for takeoff April 17, 2016 on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan. (Marine Corps/Cpl. Jessica Collins)
MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, await the green light for takeoff April 17, 2016 on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan. (Marine Corps/Cpl. Jessica Collins)

For the second time in two years, Marine Corps leaders have ordered all U.S. aviation units to observe a 24-hour "operational reset," halting flight operations to assess safety standards and readiness.

The order, released Friday by Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, comes just days after the second deadly aircraft crash in less than a month.

On Aug. 5, an MV-22 Osprey carrying 26 personnel crashed off Queensland, Australia, shortly after launching from an amphibious assault ship. Three of the Marines aboard were lost in the crash.

And on July 10, a KC-130T carrying seven Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command troops and a Marine crew of 9 went down in Mississippi after a transport mission, killing all 16 aboard. Marine Forces Reserve has since grounded all 12 KC-130T aircraft still in service for the Marine Corps; that grounding continues.

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Neller ordered that units observe the 24-hour period at the discretion of commanders over the course of the next two weeks, dictating that no operational commitments be impacted on account of the pause.

The reset period, officials said in a statement, will allow units "to focus on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, standardization, and combat readiness."

Marine squadrons were ordered to review selected mishaps that took place across the Corps and "study historical examples of completed investigations" to improve best practices and awareness across the service.

"Pauses in operations are not uncommon and are viewed as a responsible step to refresh and review best practices and procedures so our units remain capable, safe, and ready," officials with Marine Corps Headquarters said in a statement.

The last time the Marine Corps ordered a 24-hour operational pause for all squadrons was in August 2016, after three F/A-18 Hornets with Marine pilots crashed in the space of two months. Two of the crashes were fatal.

Already this year, there have been 11 Marine Corps Class A aviation mishaps, indicating incidents in which $2 million or more in damage was sustained. Six of the mishaps were crashes, and 20 Marine fatalities resulted.

According to statistics maintained by the Naval Safety Center, that's the highest number of Class A mishaps the Marine Corps has sustained in aviation since 2004.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.