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Fri, Apr 14, 2023

GAO Report Cites Pilot Error In National Guard Helicopter Mishaps

In Pursuit of Improvement

Since 2012, U.S. Army and Air Force Air National Guard helicopters have collectively suffered nearly three-hundred non-combat accidents in which 28 servicemembers’ lives have been lost.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has ascribed blame for the majority of subject accidents to human error deriving of overconfidence, poor communication, lack of awareness, and pilots’ failures to follow training standards.

The Senate ordered the GAO report following the deaths of three servicemembers in the January 2021 loss of a U.S. military medical evacuation helicopter in the vicinity of Rochester, New York.

Approximately 15-percent of the aforementioned mishaps resulted in death, permanent disability, extensive hospitalization, property damage of $500,000 or more, or complete aircraft hull losses.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set forth: “The Army and Air Force must act swiftly to implement the straightforward and achievable safety practices outlined in the GAO report.”

By way of addressing the surfeit of Army and Air Force National Guard helicopter accidents, the Government Accountability Office recommended mitigating steps—to include the creation of a database by which to track incidents, and full-implementation of post-crash recommendations as handed down by military and NTSB accident investigators. The report disclosed that the U.S. Army has established no system “for tracking the status of accident investigation recommendations through implementation.” What’s more, the report identified inadequacies in current U.S. military aviator training conventions, including widespread failures of pilots to meet flying hour goals—a failure the GAO attributed, in part, to staffing issues—specifically shortages of maintenance personnel.

The report also cited numerous failures of Army and Air Force safety processes, such as incomplete risk-management worksheets, which the agency suggested the services update and evaluate more frequently and revise to include safety information the likes of accident data.

In a statement of its own, the National Guard contended it “prioritizes the safe operation” of its helicopter fleet “to ensure the safety of our aviators and the public.” What’s more, the National Guard welcomed “any study of our aviation processes that results in making them safer and improves our mission capability.”



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