The Harrier jet has improved its safety rating in recent years. But it was once called the most dangerous airplane in the United States military.
The Harrier safety rating was so poor that two Los Angeles Times newspaper reporters wrote a series of stories about the jet. Those stories won a 2003 Pulitizer Prize. (See link below)
According to the Los Angeles Times in 2002, 45 marines had died in 143 non-combat crashes since the Marine Corps had started using the jets in the early 70s. Reports showed nearly a third of the fleet had been lost to crashes over three decades.
In the early 2000s, the Harrier safety record seemed to stabilize. But as the articles pointed out, several crashes in 2001, including two here in North Carolina, raised concerns once again.
Some of the issues cited over the years included the wing flaps and engine trouble. According to the Los Angeles Times articles, the Marine Corps has spent millions in corrective measures and some of the planes probably cost close to $50 million now, as opposed to the sticker price in the mid-$20 million range.
Accidents in recent years involving Cherry Point Harriers include two previous crashes this year. In May a Harrier from Cherry Point crashed in the Arizona desert, while in February another jet crashed in Carteret County at Open Ground Farms. In 2005 a Harrier crashed in Pamlico County. In July 2005, a Cherry Point Harrier crashed in Florida. And in 2006, a Cherry Point Harrier ran off a runway in New York. All pilots survived in those crashes.