Dec. 3 (UPI) — Flight hours are down and training waivers are on the rise among military pilots, making military flights riskier, according to a new report from a commission convened to investigate the cases of military aviation crashes.
The report, released Thursday, said pilots are spending more time on assignments away from the cockpit and that the lack of flight hours is “increasing risk.”
Maintenance staff are also saddled with “voluminous additional duties” unrelated to their primary job descriptions that take away from training opportunities, according to the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety.
“The net result is a shortage of mid-grade maintainers and aviators across the Services, and an overall decline in experience levels,” said a press release announcing the report’s publication.
The commission also found that the military’s sustainment system was ineffective across services, with struggles keeping parts supplied and depots maintained, causing maintenance delays.
“We came away from our visits impressed with the patriotism, dedication, and level of effort we observed throughout the ranks of America’s military,” Gen. Dick Cody, chairman of the Commission, said.. “But we also came away deeply concerned and troubled by the decline in experience, crushing OPTEMPO and lack of resources.”
The commission was convened to investigate what it describes as “the rising rates” of military aviation mishaps between Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2018.
The report compares that period to the years between Fiscal Year 2007 and 2012.
While the mean rate of Class A and Class B mishaps — which cause $2.5 million or more in property damage or between $600,000 and $4.9 million in property damage respectively — was lower in the second time period than the first, the rate of Class C mishaps was higher.
Class C mishaps cause between $60,000 and $599,999 in damage.
Between 2007 and 2012, the mean rate of Class C mishaps was 19.45 per year and the in between 2013 and 2018 it was 23.37 per year.
In all, between 2013 and 2018 there were 6,079 non-combat mishaps that killed 198 people, destroyed 167 aircraft and caused $9.41 billion in damages.
The commission recommends the military increase flight hours, provide better training and career opportunities for maintainers, prioritize safety at senior levels in the Department, provide reliable and consistent funding — and better manage the environmental factors that lead to chronic fatigue and unsafe conditions.