Air Force orders safety review as deadly crashes rise

Six Air Force C-17 transport jets with the 445th Airlift Wing sit idle at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during a partial federal government shutdown in 2013. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO

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Six Air Force C-17 transport jets with the 445th Airlift Wing sit idle at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during a partial federal government shutdown in 2013. TY GREENLEES / STAFF FILE PHOTO

The Air Force’s top general has ordered a one-day safety stand down for flying and maintenance units after a sharp rise in accidents in recent months.

The Air Force Reserve’s 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson, which flies nine C-17 Globemaster III troop and cargo jets on missions around the world, will review safety issues June 2, said Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a wing spokeswoman.

“We are focused on identifying hazards that may lead to future mishaps,” she told this newspaper. “Every aircraft we fly, regardless of its age, meets exacting airworthiness standards.”

The wing has had no fatalities or major damages of $2 million or more — considered a Class A mishap — in recent years, she said.

The wing has flown nearly 3,100 flight hours through May 9 since the start of the fiscal year, and flew more than 4,700 hours last year.

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Commanders throughout the Air Force and will ask airmen to identify potential safety issues and give feedback on operations, the Air Force said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered the safety review.

“We cannot afford to lose a single airmen or weapons system due to a mishap that could have been prevented,” Goldfein said in a statement. “Our men and women have volunteered to give their last full measure for America’s security. My intent is to have commanders lead focused forums with their airmen to help identify gaps and seams that exist or are developing, which could lead to future mishaps and unsafe conditions.”

The Air Force has had four crashes and 18 fatalities since the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1. Overall, the Air Force said mishaps have trended downward over the past decade, however.

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In the most recent deadly crash, nine airmen aboard a Puerto Rico Air National Guard WC-130 died May 6 when the aging plane on its final flight crashed in Georgia.

One April 4, an Air Force Thunderbirds pilot was killed in a training accident over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

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