WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army said on Friday that it was grounding all Army flights except those needed for critical missions until aviation squadrons complete required training after two deadly helicopter crashes in a month.
“The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand-down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “During this stand-down, we will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission.”
The training will focus on topics including risk mitigation, maintenance and flight planning, the Army said in a statement. Units can resume flights after completing the daylong training, which can begin as early as Monday. Active-duty units are required to complete the training by May 5, and Army National Guard and Reserve units will have until May 31.
The grounding of flights follows the deaths of 12 soldiers in two separate midair collisions during training missions. Both incidents remain under investigation, and there is no indication of any pattern between the two mishaps, the Army said in its statement.
In the first incident, on March 29, two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters assigned to the 101st Airborne Division collided and crashed at Fort Campbell, Ky. Nine soldiers were killed — four in one helicopter and five in the other. There were no survivors.
On Thursday, two AH-64 Apache helicopters in Alaska assigned to the 11th Airborne Division also collided in-flight and crashed. Three crew members were killed, and a fourth was wounded.
Stand-downs are common in military aviation after two or more mishaps within a short period.
In 2022, the U.S. Navy ordered a similar daylong pause in nonessential flights following three crashes within seven days that resulted in six deaths.