Success in Army Aviation Safety
BRIG. GEN. ANDREW C. HILMES
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
During FY20, the Army continued seeing vast improvements in aviation safety, especially in Class A mishaps. For FY20, we recorded six Class A mishaps for the year, while still flying 90 percent of flying hours compared to FY19. This reduction from 12 to six Class A mishaps for the year is the direct result of commander presence and influence on outstanding Soldiers taking the appropriate risk management actions. Unfortunately, of the six mishaps in FY20, three were fatal and claimed the lives of seven Soldiers compared to two Army fatalities during FY19. The current manned Class A mishap rate for FY20 is .65 per 100K flying hours, the lowest rate and total number of Class A mishaps on record. However, while these statistics are promising, the Army must still continue to strive to improve safety through awareness and overall unit culture.
There are a number of comprehensive initiatives that contributed to this reduction. Among them are a campaign to address the fourth-quarter spike in aviation mishaps that occurred over the past five years. Of all Class A mishaps from FY15 to FY19, 40 percent occurred in the fourth quarter, while flying hours remained relatively constant across the quarters. The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center senior Army leadership embraced the challenge and launched an information campaign in March 2020 covering managing transitions, unit assessments, training management, environmental training, crew selection, fighter management, and maintenance. The Chief of Staff, Army endorsed this campaign with a message to the aviation force in June, reiterating the convergence of these complex factors. Additionally, we addressed both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command commanders, who repeatedly reiterated and reinforced the importance of taking control of these risks through deliberate planning and action. By acknowledging and embracing these leading indicators, the outstanding, proactive approaches by commanders resulted in a significant reduction in mishaps throughout the year, despite the changing COVID-19 environment.
Through involvement of the full Army Aviation Enterprise, specific initiatives over the last two years include the Aviation Trends/Safety Brief the USACRC provides in person to aviation units and, amidst pandemic concerns, via MS Teams. Additionally, the USACRC provides safety-focused briefings during aviation pre-command, NCOES and warrant officer professional development courses. Furthermore, the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence has developed and integrated Emergency Response Methodology Training designed to ensure appropriate responses to in-flight emergencies, an area that led to a number of catastrophic mishaps the past five years. The FY19 Class A rate sits 39.8 percent below the five-year average (1.08), and at 6.12, the current Class A-C mishap rate is 16 percent lower than the five-year rate (7.30). Working together, rapidly disseminating analyzed information, and focusing on the deliberate application of risk management at all levels resulted in these historically low mishap rates.
Many might attribute the drastic decrease in aviation mishaps to a reduction in operations brought about by the COVID-19 environment. However, throughout FY20, Army Aviation continued to fly almost 90 percent of the annual Flying Hour Program since 2015. Risk management at the battalion and company levels is the best mishap prevention tool available to the Army. The challenges associated with COVID-19 and maintaining readiness made commanders deliberate in their planning within all aspects of operations. Risk assessment and management was at the forefront of everyone's mind as we attacked this problem set.
The Army Aviation Enterprise has completed the many challenges of FY20 in great shape and is postured for success as we start another fiscal year. We should all take pride in our efforts, but this is not the time to lessen our vigilance or assume we have a perfect system. We are at our best when we flatten comms, share information and trends (even when it hurts), and spot check critical functions to ensure adherence to the guidance we’ve issued. The USACRC exists to support you. Let me know what we can do to help with your loss prevention efforts. Fly safe!
People First — Winning Matters — Readiness Through Safety!