U.S. Military Accidents Common

ByABC News
March 12, 2001, 7:18 PM

March 12 -- As an accident during a training bombing run today left six people dead in Kuwait, it may seem like the U.S. military has suffered an unusual number of fatal mishaps in recent months.

But military statistics indicate serious accidents have been running at about their normal rate, and they have been generally decreasing over the past two decades.

True, in December, an emergency landing by a transport plane in Kuwait killed three people, and the crash of a V-22 Osprey aircraft killed four, prompting the fleet to be grounded and a reconsideration of the aircraft.

Three more accidents grabbed headlines in February: a crash of a Marine Corps Harrier, killing two; the collision between the submarine USS Greeneville and a Japanese fishing boat, killing nine civilians, including four boys; and the collision between two Army helicopters, killing six.

This month, before today's accidental bombing in Kuwait, 21 people died in the crash of a National Guard plane in Georgia.

But according to the latest Pentagon data, the armed services are not experiencing an unusual number deadly or permanently, fully disabling accidents, or those costing more than $1 million in damages, called "Class A" mishaps at least not involving aircraft.

For fiscal year 2001 so far, which began Oct. 1, the services had only two more Class A accidents than they did for the same time a year earlier 24 as opposed to 22. In those, three more people lost their lives in those accidents than died in 2000 20 compared to 17.

Accidents Per Flight Time

It's difficult to draw meaningful trends using military accident statistics for several months, or even year-to-year. The military may go for months without a mishap causing a large number of deaths or injuries. And then a transport aircraft might go down killing 19, as occurred last April in another Osprey accident.

But the Pentagon does have a method for calculating Class A aviation mishaps over different periods of time, and that method the number of accidents per estimated 100,000 flight hours suggests the number of serious aviation accidents in recent months are on par with recent years.