After twelve soldiers were killed in two separate helicopter crashes, U.S. Army Chief of Staff James McConville ordered an aviation stand down, grounding all Army aviators – except those working on critical missions – until required training is completed.
“The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” McConville said in a statement to American Military News. “During this stand down, we will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission.”
The order comes one day after three soldiers were killed and another was injured when two Apache helicopters collided in flight near Healy, Alaska. Weeks earlier, nine U.S. soldiers died after two Fort Campbell Blackhawk helicopters crashed in Kentucky.
“We are deeply saddened by those we have lost,” McConville said. “It is their loss that makes it all the more important we review our safety procedures and training protocols, and ensure we are training and operating at the highest levels of safety and proficiency.”
The Army said in a statement that it will go over the risk approval and risk management process, aviation maintenance training program, aircrew training standardization and management, and supervisory responsibility, in addition to assessing the “flight-mission briefing process with an emphasis on risk mitigation, crew selection, flight planning, crew/flight briefings, debriefings and after-action reviews.”
Active-duty units must finish their training by May 5. Army National Guard and Reserve have until May 31 to complete their training.
“Army aviation units will resume normal operations following the stand down, after any corrective actions are taken on issues identified in safety or training,” the service said in a statement.