The U.S. Army has ordered a 24-hour safety stand-down of its aviation units next week following two deadly mid-air collisions in the last thirty days, including Thursday's crash of two Apache helicopters in Alaska that killed three soldiers and left another injured.
That crash followed the deadly March 29 collision of two HH-60 Blackhawk helicopters near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, that killed 9 Army soldiers aboard.
"Army Chief of Staff James McConville today ordered an aviation stand down following two deadly helicopter mishaps that claimed the lives of twelve soldiers," said an Army statement. "The move grounds all Army aviators, except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training."
"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," said McConville, himself an Army aviator.
All active-duty units were ordered to put in place a 24 hour stand-down sometime next week. Army National Guard and Reserve units will have until May 31 to carry out their stand-downs.
"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," said McConnville.
The Army said that during the stand-down, the Army "will review the risk approval/risk management process, aviation maintenance training program, aircrew training standardization and management, and supervisory responsibility.
Units will also assess the flight-mission briefing process with an emphasis on risk mitigation, crew selection, flight planning, crew/flight briefings, debriefings and after-action reviews.
The Army statement announcing the stand down provided the first official mention that the nighttime Blackhawk collision was the result of a mid-air collision.
"While both incidents remain under investigation, there is no indication of any pattern between the two mishaps," said the statement.
"We are deeply saddened by those we have lost," McConville said. "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."