Army Chief of Staff James McConville has ordered a 24-hour aviation stand down in the wake of two helicopter collision incidents that killed 12 soldiers.
All Army helicopter pilots are to be grounded, "except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training," according to a service statement, which further reads:
"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,” said McConville, who, in addition to being Chief of Staff, is a senior Army aviator qualified in numerous aircraft. “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 after yesterday’s mid-air collision of two AH-64 Apache helicopters returning from a training mission near Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Three soldiers were killed, and another was hospitalized. A month earlier, nine Soldiers were killed during a routine night training flight near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when their HH-60 Blackhawks collided. While both incidents remain under investigation, there is no indication of any pattern between the two mishaps.
“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.”
During the stand down, the Army will review the risk approval/risk management process, aviation maintenance training program, aircrew training standardization and management, and supervisory responsibility. They will also assess 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 are required to complete the 24-hour stand down between May 1st and 5th, while the Army National Guard and Reserve will have until May 31 to coincide with their respective training schedules. Army aviation units will resume normal operations following the stand down, after any corrective actions are taken on issues identified in safety or training.