Army, Air National Guard Helicopter Accidents a Result of Human Error, GAO Finds

The agency made a list of safety recommendations after studying 298 helicopter accidents from 2012 to 2021.

A study by the Government Accountability Office found that the bulk of reported helicopter accidents in the National Guard were the result of human error. [Courtesy: GAO]

The Government Accountability Office has published a report detailing what it says the U.S. Army and Air National Guard need to do to improve the safety of their helicopter operations.

Responding in part to 10 years of data that revealed 298 non-combat helicopter accidents between the Army and U.S. Air Force components of the National Guard, the GAO studied safety practices within the organizations. The agency analyzed accident data from fiscal years 2012 through 2021. The study also included document reviews and interviews with officials from a number of units

The GAO found that about 45 of the reported accidents in the study were considered serious, meaning that they included fatalities, permanent disability, extensive hospitalization, helicopter destruction or more than $500,000 of property damage. The accidents resulted in the deaths of 28 personnel.

According to GAO data analysis, the accidents were attributable mainly to human error reflecting problems like poor communication, overconfidence and failure to follow training standards.

In its report, the GAO made several recommendations to the secretaries of the Army and Air Force, including the establishment of systems for tracking the implementation status of recommendations.

The GAO also recommended that the Army and Air Force evaluate and update risk management for National Guard helicopter units, develop plans for recurrent evaluations of  helicopter aircrews, and examine the assignment and workloads of unit safety personnel.

Finally, the GAO recommended that the secretaries of both services oversee the development of “a comprehensive strategy that includes goals, priorities, and performance measures to address the challenges” that hinder Army National Guard and Air National Guard helicopter pilot training.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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