The Marine Corps’ aviators have increased their monthly flight hours per pilot, and are now flying substantially more than Air Force pilots, military officials said.
Both the Marine Corps and Air Force are facing pilot shortages and aircraft readiness problems that have left a large number of aircraft grounded.
But the Marine Corps says it has made strides over the past year increasing monthly flight hours.
The Marines are averaging between 14 to 16 hours a month per pilot per aircraft, while the Air Force is averaging just a little above nine to 10 hours per pilot per month, according to testimony Wednesday from Gen. Glenn M. Walters, the Marine Corps assistant commandant, and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson at a Senate Armed Services hearing on military readiness.
Average monthly flight hours is an important metric for the services, an indicator of how much training and experience their pilots have. The Corps has frequently cited lower flight hours as a potential reason for numerous air mishaps that have plagued the Marines over the last couple years.
In 2017, the Marines had 12 air incidents that resulted in either death or more than $2 million in damages, also known as a class A mishap. The Marines have steadily been pushing to increase flight hours and to get more aircraft and pilots in the air.
But flight hours can fluctuate drastically from unit to unit, especially with pilots are deployed down range.
“Why do you think the Marines are ahead of you on this?” Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe asked Gen. Wilson.
“I don’t have a good reason why they are ahead of us,” Wilson replied.