The National Commission on Military Aviation Safety visited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Jan. 15 to examine the full range of manning, training and equipment issues associated with military aviation safety.
Due to a rise in military aviation accidents, Congress established the commission to conduct a comprehensive review of military aviation mishaps occurring between 2013 and 2018 to reveal trends, identify shortcomings and highlight best practices.
During the visit, the Commissioners and staff met with 128th Aviation Brigade leadership, advanced individual training instructors and students to get a better idea of the role the unit plays in Army aviation.
The team explained how important it is to meet with the maintainers, trainers, pilots and leaders in an environment where they feel comfortable to speak freely, with junior enlistees meeting with commission members separately in order to discuss their views on the training course.
“The 128th Aviation Brigade provides realistic, relevant and rigorous helicopter maintenance training for the Army and Air Force,” said retired U.S. Army Gen. Richard Cody, and Chairman of NCMAS. “The unit trains approximately 5,500 Soldiers and Airmen a year; it’s the perfect place to come and get input from experts with specialized skills and experience.”
The commission is looking for trends from previous mishaps, including lessons learned and how they are incorporated into current operations, training and maintenance procedures. They are also reviewing organizational and supervisory influence, human factors, training, physiological effects, maintenance, operational tempo and budgetary constraints.
“Over the past year we have visited with more than 125 units across 80 bases,” Cody said. “We wanted to visit these locations first to see the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines in action and speak with them on their experiences in the career field and try to bring that knowledge back to the school house here.”
Cody, who completed training at Fort Eustis more than 40 years ago, explained how things have changed over the time.
“The training these Soldiers have access to is amazing,” Cody said. “The instructors have the capability to use virtual reality to input faults and have the students troubleshoot and diagnose different problem sets, which broadens their knowledge tremendously. The school house does a great job balancing the computer based training with actual hands-on training.”
Cody went on to say they don’t expect the Soldiers to come out of the course experts, but once they are assigned to their first duty location they will get more hands-on training and repetitions needed to become more efficient at their jobs.
The commission is tasked with five areas to examine: assess the rate of accidents; assess the underlying cause of physiological episodes; identify the underlying causes regarding aircraft availability; assess the causes that contributed to accidents; and make recommendations.
The commission aims to have its findings delivered to Congress and the President by December 2020.