VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Since the Navy and Marine Corps began flying its F-18 Hornets in 1980, there have been 201 serious accidents. However, the Navy contends when you consider the thousands of flight hours divided among several different squadrons, not to mention the complexity and danger involved with operating super-sonic aircraft, the number's really not that extraordinary.
"This aircraft is a terrific aircraft. It is the foundation of our tactical aviation forces...," Admiral John Harvey Jr., the commander of US Fleet Forces, said.
Just 24 hours after the crash at Mayfair Mews Apartments , Harvey made it clear that the Navy had not lost confidence in the F-18 Hornet.
Harvey added, "It is the backbone of our carrier fleet, and I think the safety record in particular has been pretty extraordinary."
It is also a lengthy record.
In fact, the only year the F-18 was not involved in a "Class A" or serious accident was in 1982. Since that time there have been at least two crashes a year.
In its 32 years of operation, 10 crashes were reported in seven of those years, with as many as 15 in 1991.
As recently as 2004, there were 14 serious accidents involving the F-18 Hornet. Those numbers reflect aircraft flown by both the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Last year, there were six serious crashes. Friday's crash is the second for this year.
The Commanding Officer of Naval Air Force Atlantic, Rear Admiral Ted Branch, says those numbers do not tell the whole story.
Branch explained, "Our mishap rate is as low as it's ever been in Naval aviation..."
According to the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, the longest streak without a F-18 "mishap" is 578 days.
Branch added, "It is a very reliable aircraft. Both the Delta variant of the early Hornet versions and then the Super Hornet that we are evolving to now..."
Of the 201 serious accidents, 159 jets were destroyed and 64 crewmen were killed. A total of seven civilians were killed on the ground, bringing the total fatality rate to 76.
The most serious accident was in Dec. 2008 in San Diego . After the pilot ejected, two homes were destroyed and four people, two women and two children, were killed on the ground.
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Michelle Price with Newport News Public Schools told WAVY.com at least three city school buses ran substantially late Wednesday afternoon, delivering children home several hours after dismissal.
Plans to enhance a popular park in Smithfield are on hold. Some people say City Council is trying to commercialize a natural and historic treasure, and leave them out of the loop.