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Navy Strike Fighter Squadron Celebrates 23 Years Without a Crash


Clearly, the members of the Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 115 are not superstitious.

On Tuesday, the unit announced that it had recently hit a rare milestone in tactical aviation: 100,000 flight hours without a Class "A" mishap, or an incident causing $2 million or more in damage, permanent disability or fatality. That definition covers all crashes, and a number of ground mishaps as well.

The unit hit the milestone July 3, while conducting operations from the carrier Ronald Reagan in the South Pacific's Coral Sea. The Reagan finished a lengthy maintenance cycle in Yokosuka, Japan in April and has since been underway in the Pacific.

To get a sense of how long 100,000 hours is, it's the number of hours in 11-and-a-half years. That's a year-and-a-half longer than smartphones have been around.

For VFA-115, since flight operations do not always go around-the-clock, it took 23 years to reach 100,000 hours without a mishap. According to a release from the unit, the total included hours logged by the A-6E Intruder (which was retired by the Navy in 1997), the F/A-18C Hornet, and the F/A-18E Super Hornet, which the squadron currently flies.

That time period included two homeport changes, multiple security patrols in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and deployments in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also included deployments in support of Operation Southern Watch, an airspace patrol mission over Iraq following the Gulf War.

What makes the milestone even more remarkable is the fact that VFA-115 does one of the riskiest jobs in military aviation: launching and recovering from aircraft carriers to fly combat missions.

In a statement, the commanding officer of the squadron said the achievement highlighted the dedication of unit members.

"The achievement of this major safety milestone is a testament to the steadfast dedication and tireless efforts of generations of Eagles," said Cmdr. Sam Gray, using the squadron's nickname. "We are proud to carry on the legacy of safety excellence that has become an ingrained piece of our squadron's culture."

The squadron activated Oct. 10, 1942, making it the fourth-oldest active fighter squadron flying for the Navy. The Eagles have participated in every U.S. conflict since World War II, and were the first to deploy with the F/A-18E Super Hornet, officials said.

"This incredible achievement is built on the collective exertion of thousands of amazing maintenance personnel who have served, and continue to serve, in VFA-115," Lt. Cmdr. Dave Tickle, VFA-115 maintenance officer, said in a statement. "Our excellent safety performance is the direct result of the procedural discipline and diligent work ethic that has been demonstrated by Eagle personnel for decades."

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