Smith Statement on Findings and Recommendations from the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety
(Source: House Armed Services Committee; issued Dec. 03, 2020)
WASHINGTON, D.C. --– Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety – which was established by the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act – published their findings and recommendations.

“While Military aviation operations have a unique set of risks, the negative trends we have seen in recent years have been alarming. That’s why I introduced an amendment to the FY19 NDAA to create the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety, so that Congress and the Department of Defense can get to the bottom of the issue, and act swiftly to correct these troubling trends.

“As the Commission’s report details, from 2013 to 2018 more than 6,000 aviation mishaps occurred, resulting in the needless loss of 198 lives and the destruction of 157 aircraft to the tune of $9.4 billion in damage. In the intervening two years, another 29 aircraft were destroyed, claiming an additional 26 lives and costing $2.25 billion in damages. Even a single life lost would be one too many, but more than 200 in the past seven years is unacceptable.

“I take Congress’ oversight role very seriously and believe in the good that can come from effective oversight. The commission’s report is extensive and actionable, and we thank them for their hard work. Going forward, the committee will carefully review the report and discuss it in detail with the services to better understand what they are doing, and what they will change to reduce the aviation mishap rate.

“The committee’s work must not be limited to just aviation mishaps, as we have seen similarly concerning trends in recent years with ground vehicle mishaps. At the request of the Readiness Subcommittee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been conducting a thorough review of ground vehicle mishaps. In the new year, once GAO has completed its work, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee and with the military leadership to ensure concrete steps are taken to reverse the mishap trends we are seeing across all services and components.”

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National Commission on Military Aviation Safety Report to the President and the Congress of the United States – Executive Summary
(Source: National Commission on Military Aviation Safety; issued Dec. 03, 2020)
“What do you think will cause the next aviation mishap?”

The National Commission on Military Aviation Safety asked thousands of pilots and maintainers this question during visits to military flight lines. Across the country, certain answers were consistently repeated, regardless of Service, rank, or airframe: insufficient flight hours, decreasing proficiency levels, inadequate training programs, excessive administrative duties, inconsistent funding, risky maintenance practices, and a relentless operations tempo.

The Commission also independently assessed this same question. The Commission reviewed thousands of mishap reports, consulted volumes of secondary research, and conducted data analysis to determine why mishap rates have increased.

The Commission also utilized its resident knowledge and experience: two retired four-star military aviators; a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board and Director of Safety and Survivability for the Navy; a former Secretary of the Army who had previously served as Acting Secretary of the Air Force and as a member of Congress; an engineer turned CEO for major aircraft manufacturers; a White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations who served four presidents; and a former Navy helicopter pilot who oversaw Air Force One and Marine One while director of the White House Military Office.

This report shares critical perspectives from the flight line and addresses the safety concerns that so many aviators and maintainers candidly shared. This report also covers broader topics in the Commission’s statutory charter, such as aviation mishap rates, unexplained physiological episodes, and aviation maintenance delays.

The complete list of the Commission’s recommendations is provided in Appendix B.

During its study, the Commission realized that many aviation safety issues are uniquely interconnected and require collaborative, cross-cutting solutions. For example, increasing spare parts inventories does little good if there are not enough experienced maintainers to install them. Fixing one issue may require fixing several related issues, and all solutions must be crafted to work in concert.

In this report, the Commission took special care to balance competing and sometimes conflicting priorities, and its recommendations are proposed with an understanding of the importance of harmonization.

Our findings and recommendations focus on four areas where Congress and the Department of Defense can take immediate steps to reduce aviation mishaps: Pilots should fly; maintainers should maintain; data can save lives; and funding should be consistent.


Click here for the full report (143 PDF pages), on the Commission’s website.

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