Naval Flight Mishaps On The Rise

An F/A-18F Super Hornet flies over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

Naval flight mishaps are on the rise, more than double what they were two years ago, according to the Naval Safety Center (NSC).

So far this year, there have been a dozen Class-A flight mishaps of crewed aircraft, up from five reported in fiscal 2019, according to the most recent batch of NSC data. In that same time period, Class-A aviation mishaps have risen to 16 in FY2021, up from eight in fiscal 2019.

Class-A mishaps are defined as one resulting in at least $2.5 million in property damage and/or an aircraft is destroyed, and/or the incident results in a fatality or permanent total disability.

Aviation mishaps include:

  • Flight mishaps (FM): when there is damage to an aircraft after takeoff power is applied and intent for flight exists, such as a mid-air collision or a bird strike.
  • Flight related mishaps (FRM): when an injury occurs or there is damage to commercial or government property, but the aircraft itself is not damaged, such as if rotor wash damages a ground vehicle or injures an individual, or someone falls out of an aircraft in flight.
  • Aviation ground mishap (AGM): when there is no intent for flight and an aircraft is damaged or an individual is injured as the result of an interaction with the aircraft. Examples of AGM would be a maintainer using the wrong tool and breaking a component on the aircraft, or a pilot falling and breaking an ankle while preflighting an aircraft.

“Although Class-A mishaps have increased between 2019 [and] 21, the mishap rate has remained relatively stable compared to the 10-year average,” Jeff Jones, NSC safety promotions deputy director, told FLYING.

“Additionally, with the cost of aircraft and aircraft components dramatically increasing, we are seeing more Class-A mishaps that would have been Class Bs or even Class Cs in past years,” he added. “In four of the 12 FY21 Class-A mishaps, the aircraft recovered safely with only engine damage, and three of the Class-A mishaps were caused by bird strikes.”

A rundown of the Class-A mishaps in fiscal 2021, according to National Safety Center:

  • September 20, 2021, in Jacksonville, Florida: Multiple MH-60R helicopters damaged by aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) when the system discharged in a hangar. No injuries.
  • September 19, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas: T-45C crashed on final approach into Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. Both aircrew ejected successfully with non-life threatening injuries.
  • August 31, 2021, in San Diego, California: After landing on the ship, aircraft slid off the deck into the water with six personnel aboard. One crew member was rescued; five were lost at sea.
  • August 19, 2021, at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Santa Rosa, Florida: TH-57 crashed while conducting instrument training. Aircrew incurred injuries. No fatalities.
  • July 26, 2021, in Lemoore, California: F/A-18E experienced engine fire during training flight. Recovered without incident. No injury to crew.
  • July 16, 2021, in Mammoth Lake, California: MH-60S crashed while conducting search-and-rescue mission for lost hiker in the Inyo National Forest. No injuries.
  • July 12, 2021, in Roanoke, Virginia: F/A-18F sustained FOD damage to starboard intake and starboard engine after a bird strike during low-level flight. Aircraft recovered safely. No injuries.
  • July 9, 2021, Pacific Ocean: Aircraft engine damaged by external FOD during carrier arrestment. No injuries.
  • May 17, 2021, in Kingsville, Texas: Two T-45Cs collided during a formation flight. Two successful ejections from one aircraft, the other aircraft safely landed at NAS Kingsville. No injuries.
  • April 26, 2021, Eastern Pacific Ocean: MQ-8B crashed after departing the perch while underway. No injuries. (UAV-Flight)
  • March 24, 2021, Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, Orange Grove, Texas: T-45C crashed after departing the landing pattern. Both crew members ejected safely. Aircraft destroyed.
  • March 22, 2021, El Centro, California: A F/A-18F struck a bird while conducting a low level flight. Aircraft safety returned to base. No injuries.
  • November 16, 2020, St. Inigoes, Maryland at outlying field Webster Field: MQ-8C was damaged during a high power maintenance ground turn. (Unmanned aerial vehicle aviation ground mishap)
  • November 10, 2020, Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California: MQ-8C crashed during a Functional Check-Flight. No injuries. (UAV-Flight)
  • October 23, 2020, Foley, Alabama: T-6B on training mission crashed. Both aircrew died.
  • October 20, 2020, China Lake, California: F/A-18E crashed after experiencing an in-flight emergency. Pilot safely ejected.
  • “The Naval Safety Center is always looking at mishaps to see if there are ways to help save lives and preserve readiness,” Jones said. “Once investigations are complete, we work with multiple agencies across the Navy and Marine Corps to assist them in taking corrective actions to prevent future mishaps.

    “These corrective actions sometimes involve changes to operating instructions, checklists, and policy.”

    Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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