Army grounds aircraft for a safety review following recent deadly crashes

The order comes after 12 soldiers died in the last month.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
U.S. Army AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB), June 3, 2019. (U.S. Army)

A day after two U.S. Army helicopters collided, killing three soldiers, the Army is ordering a stand down for all aerial units in order to review safety measures. 

The order, announced on Friday, April 28 by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, calls for a 24-hour stand down in aerial operations in order to review safety matters and refresh their training. Aerial teams who are carrying out “critical missions” are exempt from being grounded.

“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 his order. “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.”

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Per McConville’s order, all active-duty aviation units must complete the stand down between Monday-Friday, May 1-5. For members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, they have through May 31 to carry out the stand down, due to their relative training schedules. During the stand down, the Army will conduct a review of flight mission briefing, as well as maintenance training. 

The decision comes a day after three soldiers with the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment died when two AH-64 Apache helicopters collided and ultimately crashed near Healy, Alaska. Another soldier was injured and taken to a hospital. The helicopters were on their way back from a training flight when the collision occurred. 

Along with Thursday’s fatal crash, the Army has had other aerial disasters this year. In March, a pair of HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Kentucky, killing a total of nine soldiers. Both that and Thursday’s incident are under investigation. Per McConville’s statement, the Army has not found any pattern or commonality linking the two incidents.

In addition, a pair of Tennessee Army National Guard soldiers died in February when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Alabama and two soldiers were injured after their Apache helicopter rolled while attempting to lift off in Alaska.

The Army Isn’t the only branch to issue safety-related stand downs following deadly incidents. Last June the U.S. Navy issued a similar stand down following a series of crashes involving aircraft. That came after five mishaps in two weeks. The Marine Corps issued a similar stand down order that month following its own crashes. 

“We are deeply saddened by those we have lost,” McConville added in his statement.  “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.”

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