Media Roundtable on Aviation safety stand-up

By U.S. Army Public AffairsApril 10, 2024

Aviation Safety Stand-Up MRT


MG Walter Rugen: The Army is going to be implementing an Army Aviation Safety Stand Up. So obviously that's different than a safety stand-down. So, there'll be no accompanying pause in operations. So, during this stand up, aviation units will execute targeted training that we've really been deliberate about crafting while continuing to fly missions. Again, for our overarching goal to build enduring readiness and proficiency in our force. Many of you may have remembered from last year that the Army executed an Aviation Stand Down where units did pause all operations to focus on safety trends across the force. We assess that the recent accident increase would be better mitigated by focusing more on specific training topics to better get at targeted areas that are contributing to many of our safety issues. So, more training, more focused training, and we'll be, actually, I think the order went out to the force five minutes ago. Our active-duty component will have 30 days to complete the training. So, 10 May and our Reserve components Compo 2 and 3 will have 60 days, which is in line with our policies. And with that, I think we'll start a round robin of questions and address anything you guys have.

Jason Waggoner: Okay, sir, thank you for those comments. We'll start with David Martin if you joined, and then we'll go to Jen Judson. So, David.

David Martin: So, just to be clear. When you say the recent accident increase, which ones are you referring to?

MG Walter Rugen: Well, again, we've--over the--the first six months of this fiscal year, we've seen a troubling trend with our accident rates, and certainly any loss of life is 100% unacceptable. And then obviously, even when we have accidents that we lose the aircraft or severely damage the aircraft, we consider that unacceptable, too. So, we understand we're in an inherently dangerous business, but getting after those trends and changing them to the better is always where we want to be. With those accidents, I don't know if--I'll send it over to General Byrom if he's got any particulars he can share.

BG Jon Byrom: Yes, sir. Jon Byrom here. In response to your question, there has been an increase in aviation accidents this year. We've had a total of 12 aviation flight mishaps this year.

David Martin: Have they all been helicopters?

BG Jon Byrom: It has been 11 helicopters and then one C-12 airplane.

David Martin: And--and so that's 12 compared to what would be the--the same period in the previous year?

BG Jon Byrom: Sir, last year there were nine aviation mishaps.

David Martin:  In the entire year?

BG Jon Byrom: Yes, sir. And then when I say mishaps, let me clarify. Those are Class A mishaps where it involves--and that involves either a fatality or loss of equipment value in excess of $2.5 million. So that's just the clear definition of what I'm talking about.

David Martin: So just to be clear, it's a total of 10 in the fiscal year. Sorry, 12 in the fiscal year to date versus nine in the last entire fiscal year, is that right?

BG Jon Byrom: That is correct.

David Martin: Okay. Thank you.

Jason Waggoner: Okay. Thank you for that. Next, we'll take Jen Judson, then we'll move on to Todd South.

Jen Judson: Thank you for doing this. Could you elaborate a little bit more specifically on what types of training you’re targeting based off of what you're seeing related to these mishaps? What are the trends? Where do you tend to see--you know, [*0:04:25.3] result? I know obviously there's still investigations going on, but are you seeing this you know as more human error disorientation? What are some of the main things that are causing these accidents that you're finding preliminarily? And how does that transfer to the specific training items that you're targeting?

MG Walter Rugen: Yeah, great question. And so obviously we're targeting across three broad areas and then I'll get more specific here in a minute. But, training on risk management, risk mitigation at the decision maker level, obviously we're in the operational level. It is targeting in power management and in spatial disorientation. And then again in the maintenance realm. We just want to firm up our aviation maintainers with a host of topics to, again, just cover down on what we anticipate are areas that are just tough maintenance tasks that can always use additional focus to make sure that they maintain their proficiency and readiness. Obviously, we're leaving no stone unturned, as we are--you know, we have five accident investigations ongoing. So, if anything emerges, I feel like we're being very agile to get to a graduate level event, where we get to talk at the lowest level and make sure it's just the highest of quality.

BG Jon Byrom: And then this is--hey, Jen, this is Jon Byrom here. Just so you know that the CRC, I had briefed you on some of the things that we've done. We're going to have, some of our experts will be involved in some of those actual training events where we're getting after the training, the risk mitigation, helping make sure that down to the lowest level, everybody is understanding the expectations for that.

MG Walter Rugen: And I would just say that it's more like our brain trust, you know, where we have the highest level of experts within safety, within maintenance out of AMCOM, and then within operations out of the Department of Evaluation and Standards out of Fort Novosel. All those experts are going to be executing multiple site assistant visits across our force, across all compos to make sure we're checking that learning.

Jason Waggoner: Okay, thank you for that, sir. Next, we'll move on to Todd South and then over to Jeff Schogol.

Todd South: Two questions, gentlemen. I guess, first of all, why not, if they down with these numbers? And secondarily, I know we've talked about the number of mishaps, but can you talk also about the rate? I mean, are we--is this a high rate compared to the flight hours or are the flight hours higher? I know that's also measured by the Readiness Center and how does the rate compare to what you've seen in years past?

MG Walter Rugen: I think I'll talk to the first portion of your question. You know, a stand up is far more empowering. We have ongoing operations that are critical that we complete. And again, we want to empower the force at the lowest level to solve these problems. And that's how we've been pretty deliberate on not kind of having a quick trigger stand down that isn't necessarily going to have the topics that are focused and the training that is focused to make sure that we reverse the trend. And so I would say that we want to be more empowering to the force. I think the last thing, too, is commanders have asked for flexibility. And so, when you look at the National Guard, they're just coming out of a stand down. We didn't want to just keep standing down. We wanted, again, have some action associated with it to reverse the trend.

Jason Waggoner: Okay. Todd, did you have a follow up?

Todd South: Yes. My second question was about the rate of mishaps. We have a number, but I'm curious how the rate so far, year to date compares to others. Obviously, there's different numbers of flight hours. I think the center tracked rate by 100,000 hours or something like that. Is there more flying hours? So, you're seeing more numbers. Is it a higher concentration of mishaps within the same amount of flying hours? Like, what's the best way to kind of compare apples to apples?

BG Jon Byrom: Sure. In terms of the mishap rate for this year, our current mishap rate is 3.22 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. Comparing this to last year, last year was 1.08 mishaps. And those are Class A mishaps per 100,000 hours.

MG Walter Rugen: So, we are tracking that.

Jason Waggoner: Okay, sir, thank you for that. We'll move on to Jeff Schogol and then to Corey Dickstein.

Jeff Schogol: Thank you. Can you say how many soldiers have been killed and injured in these 12 Class A mishaps. And also, let’s see, have you noticed any trends in these 12 mishaps? Any--one of the training aspects is on spatial orientation, for example. Is that a trend that you are noticing?

BG Jon Byrom: Okay, sir, I'll answer the first question on the statistics that you asked about. In 2024, we have had nine fatalities from the aviation mishaps.

MG Walter Rugen: Plus the----

BG Jon Byrom: And we've also had one border guard as well.

MG Walter Rugen: Yeah, border patrol agents.

BG Jon Byrom: So total of 10.

MG Walter Rugen: And I think the trends do predominantly, you know, we have five open investigations, so we're waiting on that. And we're not going to jump the gun on anything we're seeing before the investigation is complete. But spatial disorientation has been a trend. We get into aspects of flight where the crew must reinforce how to revert back to knowing where you are and where your aircraft is with respect to the ground. And so it always bears reinforcing any spatial disorientation training. And I would say power management. We're working very hard on effective power management across a host of flight altitudes, higher temperatures, and wind conditions.

Jason Waggoner: Okay, sir, thank you for that. And next will be Corey Dickstein, followed by Abby Soukup.

Corey Dickstein: Hi, Corey Dickstein, Stars and Stripes. I'm wondering in the stand up, how much training, you know, kind of hours wise, are Soldiers looking at here and like, is this going to be new training they haven't seen or training they're familiar with, that kind of thing?

MG Walter Rugen: I think there's two aspects to that. One, I think some of this does bear repeating because they're critical topics. So, there is going to be some training that is just focused, because, again, we understand how to train ourselves. We understand what the standards are, and we just want to make sure everybody is aware of those standards and that they're performing to standard. Two, I think another aspect that really an initiative that came out of the Combat Readiness Center that General Byrom is the commanding general of, is this notion of getting the accident out briefs that the investigations have finished and having a safety-centered discussion on the lessons learned that are coming from those. And those will be done in a classified forum and down to the lowest level, where we can have our experts work with every unit out there to make sure they have an opportunity to see these lessons learned again at a graduate level. And I'll throw it to you, Jon, if you want to talk about that more.

BG Jon Byrom: I just can fill in a few of the gaps on that. And General Rugen covered it very well. During the stand up, we will have our experts that are working with the very capable trainers at each of the units to have those, really the graduate level discussions on the mishaps with the focus being to learn from those so that we don't repeat any of the problems that we had in the past.

Jason Waggoner: Corey, did you have a follow up?

Corey Dickstein: I'm just curious if you have, like, a ballpark estimate on, like, how--how much training, you know, how many hours training it'll be?

MG Walter Rugen: I would say four to six. But six is, --but again, it depends when they take part in the--in the--in the classified sessions. So those will happen over--over, you know, a month for compo 1 and obviously two months for compo 2 and 3. So hate to kind of equivocate on that, but it'll be, a good, robust training session.

Corey Dickstein: Thank you.

Jason Waggoner: Thank you, sir. Okay, next is Abby Soukup, and then we'll go to Craig Saylor.

Abby Soukup: Hi. Thank you for having me. I am curious if there will be any follow up training required in the future. As you know, this increase from last year is pretty substantial. Is this training going to be repetitive or is this kind of a one-time fix that you'll reapply on an as-need basis?

MG Walter Rugen: I think the way we're making this not a one-time try to fix it all is really with these body of experts across safety, across operations, and across maintenance that will conduct site visits to the teams to make sure that we check on learning, and that's how we're going to sustain and reverse this trend.

Jason Waggoner: Abby, did you have a follow up?

AS: Yes. I understand that these crashes are still under investigation, but can you attribute any of these crashes to, specifically the National Guard training program, or are you focusing on all aviation units?

MG Walter Rugen: Yeah, it's all. No, there's no--all aviation units train to one standard, across all compos, so we all train to the same standard.

Jason Waggoner: Okay, sir, thank you for that. And then we'll close out here with Craig Saylor. Go ahead, Craig.

Craig Saylor: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen for taking my question. I just want to be clear, since I cover Joint Base Lewis-McChord, that the recent--the March 25 Apache crash is part of the crashes of which this is pertaining to?

BG Jon Byrom: Yes, sir, it is. And we currently have investigators on the ground and that on--that investigation is ongoing.

Craig Saylor: Okay. So, no preliminary findings you can reveal today then, I assume?

BG Jon Byrom: Unfortunately, sir, I can't put that out today.

Craig Saylor: Sure. Okay. All right. Well, that's all I have.

Jason Waggoner: Okay. Well, thank you all for joining us today. Thank our panel members here for their time as well. Again, if any of you have any follow-up questions as you start writing your stories, just send those by email to me and we'll get responses back to you as quickly as we can. Thank you again for joining us today and enjoy the rest of your day.