Canadian CF-18 crashes near Cold Lake killing pilot. It’s the eighth Legacy Hornet lost in 6 months

Legacy Hornets are crashing at an alarming rate!

A Royal Canadian Air Force single-seat CF-188 Hornet from 4 Wing Cold Lake crashed inside the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in Saskatchewan, on Nov. 28. The pilot died in the incident.

The rate of crashes involving legacy Hornets is quite alarming. At least 8 major incidents have involved legacy Hornets (that is to say, the older variant of the F/A-18) in the last 6 months!

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar collided mid-air during a training mission on Nov. 9 near San Diego. One pilot landed safely at the NAS North Island whereas the other one ejected over the sea and was rescued.

Few days earlier, on Oct. 25, an F/A-18 Hornet from Miramar crashed near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms killing the pilot.

On Aug. 29, a Swiss Air Force F/A-18 Hornet crashed shortly after taking off from Meiringen airbase. The 27-year-old pilot was found dead two days later.

On Aug. 2, a U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet flown crashed near Fallon, Nevada. The pilot safely ejected.

On Jul. 27 another Marine Hornet pilot died in a crash near 29 Palms.

Same fate for a Blue Angels pilot flying a Hornet that crashed on Jun. 2, shortly after takeoff during a practice flight in Tennessee.

Capt. Stephen R. Miggins, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 F/A-18 pilot and assistant operations officer, refuels from a KC-130J during flight training in support of Pitch Black 2012 Aug. 15.
Capt. Stephen R. Miggins, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 F/A-18 pilot and assistant operations officer, refuels from a KC-130J during flight training in support of Pitch Black 2012 Aug. 15.

In the wake of the Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets. Unfortunately, few days after the ban was lifted, two more F/A-18Cs were lost on Nov. 9.

Hornet crashes over the last year have depleted the number of available airplanes for training and operations. According to USNI News the service had 85 Hornets available for training, compared to a requirement for 171.

In order to face the critical shortage of operational fighters caused by both crashes and high operational tempos, the U.S: Marine Corps has launched a plan that will see Boeing upgrade 30 retired legacy Hornets (currently stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona) to a standard dubbed F/A-18C+.

With this upgrade, that will also embed new avionics, the service will be able to keep up with its operational tasks until the F-35 is able to take over.

Once upgraded to the C+ standard, these “gap fillers” should be more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work these days.

Furthermore, once these “refreshed” Hornets are delivered to the squadrons, older airframes can be retired, improving flight safety.

Canada has just announced the plan to use F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters as “gap fillers” until Ottawa decides on a replacement for its fleet of legacy Hornet aircraft.

Top image credit: RCAF






About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. We don’t know the reason why they crashed. Human error is always to be considered. But 8 planes in 6 months is a lot. If this was a passenger jet, all planes of this type would be grounded until it is clear what happened.

    • The groups who review these mishaps are very good, as is their information on each. You can bet that the reason is known, and the reason it isnt made public is either political (poor training, lack of spare parts, too few pilots/overwork) or sinister (sabotage, electronics warfare shut down/fooled controls). There are some scenarios wherein a design flaw could be the fault, but that is unlikely as these systems are well abused and tested.

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