Former Eagle 6 returns to post with new mission: aviation safety

Retired Gen. Richard Cody, chairman of the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety and former 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commander, and commissioners of the NCMAS, discuss aviation maintenance during a recent briefing conducted by Soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Abn. Div. The NCMAS is gathering information to conduct a comprehensive review of military aviation mishaps occurring between 2013 and 2018 to reveal trends, identify shortcomings and highlight the best practices to ensure maximum safety.

With one of the largest concentrations of assault aircraft in the Army, Fort Campbell’s role in aviation safety is vital to reduce military aviation mishaps.

The National Commission on Military Aviation Safety, chaired by former 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commander, retired Gen. Richard Cody, is gathering information to conduct a comprehensive review of military aviation mishaps occurring between 2013 and 2018 to reveal trends, identify shortcomings and highlight the best practices to ensure maximum safety.

During a recent visit to Fort Campbell, four commissioners of NCMAS met with pilots and maintainers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Abn. Div., and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) seeking input from the Soldiers regarding aircraft parts and maintenance programs in their unit versus the unit’s operational tempo. The commission wanted to ensure there was enough time for proper maintenance on aircraft because of the large logistics and maintenance operations required for such large fleets of aircraft.

“We hope to be able to stop one accident,” Cody said. “One accident is one too many.”

The data gathered from the division and 160th SOAR will help the commission provide recommendations for ways to improve aviation safety, readiness and the reduction or elimination of future aviation mishaps.

“The NCMAS will be visiting service operational commands and flight training centers and maintenance facilities,” Cody said. “We are looking at supply chains, visiting depots and seeking out the best practices in the civil aviation industry for military applicability.”

The commission also will host a series of focus groups and town halls with service members from a variety of backgrounds, including aircrews, mechanics and logisticians, seeking their input from those with specialized skills and experiences applicable to all aspects of military aviation readiness and safety. The NCMAS is looking for aggregate trends from previous mishaps, including lessons learned and how they are incorporated into current operations, training and maintenance procedures.

“The NCMAS has a staff of data analysts who work with the data provided from the safety centers,” Cody said. “While that is going on, we, the commissioners, are looking at the man, the machine, and the environment.”

The NCMAS also is focused on policy, he said, resourcing repair parts and personnel and the aviation safety culture. The commission is meeting with different units across the military to gather data from the service members who have hands-on experience with the aircraft.

“The services have done a good job across the board on safety,” Cody said. “Our biggest challenge is to be able to boil down what useful recommendations we can give for corrective action, whether it be resourcing, funding or training.”

Through this process the commission will provide information about lessons learned and some experiential data points to Congress, the Department of Defense, service leadership and people on the flight line to raise everyone’s safety awareness to mitigate catastrophic accidents, he said.

The NCMAS also is looking into the causes contributing to military aviation mishaps, the delays in aviation maintenance and limiting operational availability of aircraft, unexplained physiological effects and the rate of recent military aviation mishaps compared to historic mishap rates.

“The commission considers it an honor and a collective duty to help, inform and stop accidents,” Cody said. “It’s something I want to do, given the opportunity to take 37 years of experience, coupled with my other seven commissioners and their experience, and look for those golden nuggets so that the incoming service members get better trained.”

The commission will report their findings and recommendations on how best to reduce military aviation mishaps to the president, Congress and the DOD no later than March 2020.

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