In response to the more than 6,000 U.S. noncombat military aviation accidents between 2013 and 2018, the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety (NCMAS) is recommending the creation of a Joint Safety Council to advise the deputy secretary of defense on safety issues.
Led by safety officials from the military services, the council would establish military aviation safety standards, collect and analyze safety data, and develop safety priorities.
“One of the reasons that the commission exists is that the answers didn’t exist to the many questions that were being asked on the Hill regarding physiological episodes, crashes increasing over a period of years,” NCMAS Vice Chairman Richard Healing, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told reporters on Dec. 1. “They didn’t have the answers because they were not collecting all the data they could and analyzing it and coming out with a proactive, predictive capability after the [aviation accident] investigations are completed.”
The NCMAS’ final report said that the more than 6,000 military aviation mishaps between 2013 and 2018 resulted in 198 deaths and more than $9.41 billion in damages, including 157 destroyed aircraft, and that, while the commission was conducting its study, military aviation accidents resulted in the loss of another 26 lives, 29 aircraft, and $2.25 billion in damages.
Authorized by the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, NCMAS was the brainchild of Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), then the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee and now its chairman (Defense Daily, November 7, 2018). The blue-ribbon commission was to study the increase in non-combat military aviation accidents between 2013 and 2018, attempt to find causes, and make recommendations on how to improve aviation safety.
The HASC readiness panel planned to hear testimony on the report from Healing and NCMAS Chairman Richard Cody on the afternoon of Dec. 3. Cody, a retired U.S. Army general, is a former AH-64 Apache pilot who helped spearhead Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The NCMAS report points to a number of pressing military aviation issues, including operations tempo (OPTEMPO) for contingencies/exercises/training deployments, OPTEMPO’s deleterious effects on readiness, and the lack of stable and predictable funding–a state of affairs that has come to pass due to a reliance on continuing resolution funding for 13 of the last 18 years.
The commission said that it made 80 site visits to 200 units and organizations and that it is “deeply troubled by the chronic fatigue we saw among these brave servicemembers.”
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