Navy squadrons to be 'ungrounded'

August 25, 1994|By Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Navy will reverse an order that has grounded three carrier air wings because of a budget crunch, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said last night.

Unexpected requirements to send additional warships to waters near Korea and Haiti this summer forced the Navy to delete flight training money for the squadrons for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, through September.

Mr. Dicks said the office of Adm. Mike Boorda, the chief of naval operations, reported the naval air squadrons will be "ungrounded" as soon as possible.

The official word will come from the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its naval air forces headquarters in San Diego, but "the orders are coming from on high," a Dicks aide said.

Mr. Dicks said he agreed with the decision by Navy officials to give top priority to carrier battle groups operating overseas, but he said the Navy cannot afford to have its aviators lose flight certification.

A Pentagon decision to return the carrier USS Independence to its home port in Japan next week rather than keeping it on station near Korea played a large part in making the training funds available again, Mr. Dicks said.

Mr. Dicks said if the Navy needs more money to maintain flying training hours, he and his committee will come up with it. "We cannot afford to allow these pilots to lose their certification," he said.

The groundings have affected units at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington state; Lemoore, Miramar and North Island in California; Barbers Point in Hawaii; Norfolk and Oceana in Virginia; Jacksonville and Cecil Field in Florida, and Brunswick in Maine.

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