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Aviation training crash in California claims lives

February 28, 2012, 10:57 am

Seven members of the U.S. Marine Corps were recently killed in an aviation training accident in California, one of the deadliest accidents of its kind in the corps.

In an interview with The Associated Press, retired Marine Colonel J.F. Joseph, now an aviation consultant, said the fatal accident was an unfortunate event that can sometimes occur in preparation for war when working with high-tempo operations. The armed forces work hard to reduce risk during training, but some cannot be avoided.

"They're out there working on the edge trying to exploit the maximum capabilities of the aircraft and their tactics," Joseph told the source. "Just by the virtue of that, in becoming combat ready, these unfortunately are not uncommon occurrences."

The accident near the Chocolate Mountains at the California-Arizona border involved two helicopters crashing in midair during a routine exercise at night. The skies were clear and the weather was mild, but the collision took the lives of all members aboard the aircrafts. The military uses the sprawling desert region between California and Arizona to conduct mission simulations and test new equipment, as the host, dusty conditions mimic the environment in Afghanistan, the source reported.

Hundreds of aviation tests and training exercises are performed in the region, as 17,500 Marines and sailors are stationed at Camp Pendleton in Arizona. The goal of the training is to prepare the soldiers for war, working to duplicate conditions and scenarios they might encounter overseas. The crash was the fifth aviation accident that occurred since March involving Marines from the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. In the past five years, however, this accident is one of three that took seven or more lives, the source reported.

In an interview with the Fresno Bee, James Everett, father of Sargent Justin Everett, a helicopter pilot and 10-year Marine, said his son had already served two tours in Iraq and was headed to Afghanistan after the training. Justin was one of the seven to die in the crash. The military called in chaplains to inform family and friends of the deceased about the crash and to offer comfort for the grieving.

"This is a dynamic, very tight-knit wing," U.S. Navy Captain Irving Elson, a chaplain, told the Orange County Register. "The tragedy didn't just happen to the squadron, it happened to the Marine Corps, it happened to the nation and it happened to us."

Just as military pilots can have accidents, so can any other pilot. Therefore, it is important to be as safe as possible in the sky, and invest in pilot insurance.

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