Navy aircraft grounded: Air boss orders ‘pause’ after latest crash

By Meghann Myers
Staff Writer

The aviation Navy’s boss grounded all planes and squadrons except those deployed or underway Friday, labeling it a hours-long “tactical pause” that comes one day after the latest mishap, when a T-34C trainer crashed into the ocean off the coast of Texas.

Though the pilots were unharmed, it was the 10th major mishap this fiscal year for Navy aviation, according to a Thursday message to squadron commanders from Vice Adm. David Buss.

“This tactical pause is not intended to have you react to [Thursday’s] T-34 mishap but I ask each of you to review the details of the 10 Class Alpha mishaps this fiscal year and find the threads that make sense to your squadrons depending on the phase of the [Fleet Readiness Training Plan] that they are in,” Buss, the head of Naval Air Forces, wrote in the message, obtained by Navy Times.

There have been 10 Class A mishaps this fiscal year — the most serious category of accident, involving loss of an aircraft, any fatality or permanent disability, or more than $2 million in damages.

“Among the ten, there is roughly an even split between human causal factors in our cockpits and during maintenance in our hangar bays and we can all learn from the information in the [safety investigation reports],” Buss said in the message.

Two pilots aboard a T-34C Turbomentor assigned to Training Squadron 28 at Naval Station Corpus Christi, Texas, crashed over the Gulf of Mexico during a training flight over the Intracoastal Waterway. They were recovered uninjured by Coast Guard search-and-rescue personnel soon after.

Since October 2013, those Naval Air Forces’ Class A mishaps include:

■ T-45C Goshawk, Training Air Wing 6

■ MH-60S Seahawk, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12

■ MH-53E Sea Dragon, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14

■ F/A-18E Super Hornet, Strike Fighter Squadron 143

■ F/A-18E Super Hornet, Strike Fighter Squadron 147

■ F/A-18C Hornet, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323

■ E-2C Hawkeye, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115

■ EA-6B Prowler, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2

■ MH-60S Seahawk, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23

■ T-34C Turbomentor, Training Squadron 28

Together, the incidents resulted in more than $250 million in damage. Two pilots and an aircrewman lost their lives in the MH-53E crash off the coast of Virginia Beach in January. The F/A-18C’s pilot was killed in the March crash in Nevada.

“It’s the totality of all the Class As and the common threads that may exist that makes this a prudent time to call a tactical pause,” said AIRFOR spokesman Cmdr. Kevin Stephens. “What [Vice Adm. Buss] asked his commanding officers to do is to review the details of the class A mishaps.”

Deployed and underway units were instructed to take a tactical pause at the next available opportunity. Naval Air Forces’ last temporarily grounded in aircraft in April 2013 because of budget constraints.

Once squadrons finish stand-downs that could last an hour up to all day, squadrons are free to resume flying, Stephens said, noting some East Coast-based squadrons have wrapped up and will return to normal operations.

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