Navy aviation mishaps, deaths decline for the primary time in years


The navy companies noticed an general decline within the whole variety of severe aviation mishaps and aviation-related fatalities in 2019, reversing a pattern in recent times that noticed record-high numbers of great aviation mishaps and deaths in recent times.

Throughout the pressure, the overall variety of main mishaps — outlined as these categorized as Class A although Class C, relying on the extent of harm or harm the person mishaps induced — dropped barely final yr. The Pentagon reported 1,005 main mishaps in 2019, down from 1,036 in 2018, based on a Navy Occasions evaluation of Protection Division knowledge.

Particularly, for the person companies, the mishap knowledge confirmed:

  • The Air Pressure noticed a 7 p.c drop in general mishaps.
  • The Navy’s numbers for Class A although Class C mishaps plummeted 20 p.c.
  • The Military reported a greater than 30 p.c decline.
  • The Marine Corps was the one service to see a spike within the quantity whole variety of Class A by way of Class C mishaps, as the overall rose to 30 p.c.

The newest data comes because the Pentagon and prime navy leaders proceed to prioritize the necessity to scale back the speed of great aviation mishaps and crashes involving plane throughout the pressure.

For aviation fatalities, the Pentagon reported a pointy decline throughout the companies in 2019. Final yr, a complete of 13 service members died in mishaps, in contrast with the earlier yr’s 39 ― which had marked a 10-year excessive.

The Marine Corps suffered the worst streak of fatalities, reporting eight Marines who died in plane accidents, together with a late 2018 aerial refueling collision that killed six aircrew between the tanker and fighter jet concerned.

Regardless of the broad decline in mishaps, hassle spots stay: the newest knowledge reveals that three of the 4 companies reported an increase in essentially the most harmful kind of crashes, the Class A mishaps ― outlined as those who contain loss of life or everlasting incapacity, and/or greater than $2.5 million in injury.

Among the many Class A mishaps, the Corps reported a rise from six in fiscal yr 2018 to eight in fiscal yr 2019, together with a late 2018 aerial refueling collision that killed six aircrew between the tanker and fighter jet concerned. The Protection Division’s fiscal yr begins on Oct. 1.

Representatives of the companies security facilities, when contacted by Navy Occasions, harassed that every service is dedicated to coaching their forces and investigating mishaps, however didn’t provide any insights on why they believed their numbers had gone up or down.

A number of components are at play on the subject of mishap charges. Plane upkeep errors are sometimes cited in security investigation studies as the reason for a mishap, as is pilot or aircrew error ― which could be attributable to something from an absence of sleep to a mistake whereas flying in inclement climate.

One other is flight hours, which might have an effect on the frequency of great incidents in each instructions. Whereas extra flight hours can imply extra alternatives for mishaps, reductions in flight hours come at the price of the expertise and repetition so important to preserving pilots and crew on the prime of their sport, making a harmful combine after they do get within the air.

For instance, based on the investigation into the December 2018 crash involving a Marine Corps KC-130J refueler and F/A-18 Hornet, the pilot was unqualified for the nighttime refueling train, with solely 13 of required 60 flight hours to qualify beneath his belt.

However general, flight hours didn’t fluctuate sufficient to clarify the variations in mishap charges between 2018 and 2019, because the Navy and Marine Corps’ whole flight hours dropped by about 3,000 for every service. Within the Military, flight hours jumped by greater than 30,000 in 2019, whereas they declined by the identical quantity within the Air Pressure ― regardless of a rise in Class As for the Military and an general drop in mishaps for the Air Pressure.

Following the 2018 reporting by Navy Occasions about record-high mishap charges, the congressional armed companies committees held hearings and demanded solutions from Pentagon officers.

On the time, aviation mishaps had spiked by 40 p.c within the earlier 5 years. A document 133 service members died in aviation accidents throughout that interval. Specialists positioned the blame on the funds cuts often called “sequestration” that started in 2013. These funds cuts pressured the aviation group to considerably reduce on coaching hours and in addition led to an exodus of most of the most skilled maintainers within the senior noncommissioned officer corps.

By late 2018, the Home Armed Providers Committee introduced it might type an impartial fee of eight aviation consultants from navy and business backgrounds, to survey aviation items throughout the navy and report again their findings.

Two years later, progress has been made, however preventable deaths and dozens of destroyed plane a yr ― at tens of tens of millions of {dollars} every ― nonetheless plague the companies.

Air Pressure mishaps

The Air Pressure had 667 whole main incidents in 2019, down from 716 whole in 2018, a discount of about 7 p.c.

The service noticed essentially the most progress in fatalities, nonetheless, dropping from 17 in 2018 to 2 in 2019, whereas general Class A mishaps dropped from 30 to 22.

“When the numbers go down the subsequent yr, you’re not going to essentially take a victory lap,” Maj. Gen. John Rauch, head of the Air Pressure Security Middle, advised Air Pressure Occasions in February. “In the event that they return extra in the direction of regular, or perhaps a little beneath regular, you’re gonna say, ‘We have to proceed doing these proactive issues.’ It’s not like one yr goes to scrub that away.”

For the Air Pressure, which by its nature has essentially the most aviation mishaps of any of the companies, incidents associated to floor operations and those who occur in flight are largely evenly distributed.

Nevertheless, the Air Pressure has seen an uptick in Class A mishaps inside its fighter and assault communities. Fighters noticed essentially the most will increase in mishaps, with the F-15, F-16, F-22 and F-35 communities spiking from 190 incidents in 2018 to 243 in 2019.


The Navy, residence to navy aviation’s second largest group, noticed greater than a 20 p.c drop in its general severe aviation incidents from 2018 to 2019. The service nearly halved its Class As, down to eight in 2019.

The service’s whole flight hours dropped by about 3,000 yr over yr, exhibiting not solely a discount in incidents however an enchancment within the mishap price, as effectively.

“Presently, it’s tough to definitively determine the particular actions or mixture of actions which have resulted in a distinction between the FY18 and FY19 aviation mishaps,” based on Stephanie Slater, spokeswoman for the Naval Security Middle, which abroad Marine Corps aviation. “The Navy and Marine Corps frequently consider their packages, taking a look at classes discovered and finest practices from a security perspective to assist guarantee we keep and protect our conflict combating functionality.”

Navy aviation’s one fatality got here late final July, when a Naval Air Station Lemoore, California-based F/A-18E Tremendous Hornet crashed throughout a coaching flight over Demise Valley, injuring seven vacationers and killing its pilot, 33-year-old Lt. Charles Walker.

Marine Corps

Whereas the opposite companies noticed an general discount in severe mishaps, the Marine Corps’ numbers spiked in 2019, as much as 97 from 74 the earlier yr.

Six of eight fatalities in FY19 got here from the tanker-fighter crash in late 2018, 4 extra aviation deaths than the service reported the earlier yr.

“Because the service’s security advocate, the Naval Security Middle stays dedicated to figuring out hazards and lowering dangers to our individuals and sources,” Slater mentioned. “We are going to proceed to supply superior knowledge analytics in addition to in-depth research, developments and complicated modeling knowledge that can be utilized to assist stop mishaps.”

All through naval aviation, which incorporates each Navy Division companies, fighters had by far essentially the most mishaps, clocking in at 97 incidents for F/A-18s and F-35s, or about 35 p.c of A, B and C mishaps. 5 of these have been Class A accidents.


Just like the Air Pressure and Navy, the Military diminished general mishaps, down from 85 in 2018 to 65 in 2019. However its Class As did rise, with 12 in 2019, versus 11 in 2018.

“Whereas the Military has seen a comparatively regular drop in aviation accident charges over the previous decade, anytime the Military encounters an aviation accident, we fastidiously take into account the potential for accident developments and rapidly institute measures to mitigate contributing components,” Military spokesman Jason Waggoner advised Navy Occasions.

As in previous years, the UH-60 Black Hawk continued to be the deadliest ― in addition to essentially the most quite a few ― Military airframe with 17 mishaps, two of which have been Class As leading to a loss of life on board.

One among them was a medevac flight at Fort Pork, Louisiana, to get better a soldier with warmth stroke out on a spread. The crash killed the pilot, Maj. Trevor Joseph, however three extra aircrew on board survived.

Aviation security fee

As all 4 of the companies have touted their efforts to enhance their aviation communities’ upkeep capability and security tradition, the Nationwide Fee on Navy Aviation Security opened up a system on its web site final yr, for service members to report security considerations of their items.

“I’ve a hard and fast opinion that the distinction between a Class C and a Class A is inches and luck,” NCMAS chairman retired Military Gen. Dick Cody, a former vice chief of workers, profession helicopter pilot and aviation upkeep officer, advised reporters in final fall. “We’ve acquired the perspective that the absence of an accident doesn’t imply the presence of security. I feel we’re going to study as a lot from the Cs and the As.”

The fee’s report, initially due in March, has been pushed again to December.

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