Bird strikes caused $37M Marine F/A-18D fighter jet crash near Beaufort in 2022

Bird strikes caused $37M Marine F/A-18D fighter jet crash near Beaufort in 2022

Jul 11, 2023 News by Gary Searing

The F/A-18D that crashed in March 2022 near Beaufort was caused by bird strikes into the plane’s engines according to crash investigation details released to Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet on Tuesday afternoon. The fighter jet was based out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and the crash occurred on land owned by one of the state’s former governors.

These details and others result from a fifteen-month-long Marine Corps investigation into the crash’s cause. First Lieutenant Hudson E. Sadler, a Marine Corps spokesman said, “the bird strike and subsequent fire resulted in a serious situation for the aircrew, and we’re grateful both pilots survived with relatively minor injuries.” The entire report was not released.

Recapping the March event

The $37 million F/A-18D crashed near Halfmoon Island just north of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on March 3, 2022, causing a fire that spread across 40 acres and burned several 100-year-old live oak trees. The Coosaw Plantation land is owned by the family of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The jet was attached to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. According to, The F/A-18D is used primarily ”for attack, tactical air control, forward air control and reconnaissance squadrons.” It operates as a two-seater jet. Before the fighter jet crashed and exploded, two pilots ejected safely by pulling an ejection handle that launched one cockpit followed by the other.

Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 31, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing conducted the investigation, which is now complete and endorsed, Hudson said. Prior to the Tuesday release of information, the Marine Corps had not provided any details about the cause of the crash.

The fighter jet was 28 years old and nearing the end of its service life. It had flown 8,318 flight hours of its 9,000-hour service life.

The Marine Corps said the fighter jet’s age and flight hours were not factors in the crash. “The review of its maintenance records showed it was properly maintained in accordance with all publications and safe for flight.”

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