The Navy’s air boss announced that “Class C” ground mishaps in naval aviation have doubled in the past decade, and he’s made eliminating the mistakes his current No. 2 priority — behind the continued efforts to eliminate cockpit physiological episodes.
Class C mishaps are those in which total property damage falls between $50,000 and $500,000, or an incident that causes a sailor injury the warrants missing a day or more of work.
Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, head all naval air forces, identified the increase of the mishaps in this year’s annual aviation safety message to all aviation commanders and commanding officers on May 3.
He also announced the requirement for every aviation unit to conduct their annual one-day safety standdown before the Memorial Day holiday.
Navy Times obtained a copy of the message and Naval Air Forces confirmed its authenticity.
In the message, Miller called the rise in mishaps a “disturbing trend.”
“Since 2012, Class C [ground] aviation mishap rates have more than doubled — 9.86 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours in FY12 steadily rising to conclude FY17 at 20.25,” Miller wrote.
“Almost all Class C mishaps are preventable and a significant number of these occur during routine maintenance evolutions.”
Miller pointed to the combination of inexperience among aviation maintenance sailors and diminished flight hours across the board in naval aviation over the same time period as the most likely culprits, and noted that “experience and proper supervision” are the best prevention methods for such mishaps.
But at least half of that formula for success is harder to come by in today’s Navy, he said, and it’s something that requires more attention to detail from commanders.
“Studies show that naval aviation’s average E-5 has 1.5 years less experience as compared with 5 to 10 years ago,” he wrote.
“We also know that with reduced flight hour execution, sailors receive fewer reps and sets performing their maintenance actions.”
Miller called on units to recognize this lack of experience and ensure sailors are qualified and properly supervised during maintenance evolutions.
“Therefore, we need to ensure all evolutions, no matter how routine, procedurally follow the book and are performed by qualified sailors who are properly supervised.
“As an enterprise, we owe it to the American people to be good stewards of their money,” he continued. “We also take great pride that we plan, brief, execute, and debrief every flight. Ensure your entire team does the same with maintenance evolutions.”
Despite the initiative, the number one safety priority in naval aviation remains the rash of physiological exposes plaguing aircrews in flight.
“We are making great strides in mitigating PE, however, much work remains,” Miller wrote.
“Strict adherence to procedures and maintaining a sense of urgency at all levels with all activities are critical as we aggressively tackle PE across affected...aircraft and aircrew.”
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.