Pushing to make military helicopter training safer

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 5:35 PM EDT
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(WWNY) - There’s a push to make military helicopter training safer. It comes just weeks after nine soldiers died when two Black Hawk helicopters collided near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

It comes from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer who revealed on Wednesday the results of an investigation he called for more than 2 years ago.

“My son would have retired this year. His little son is 5 years old, and that was his goal, to retire this year,” said Josephine Koch, mother of Christian Koch.

Her son never met that goal. The chief warrant officer with the New York National Guard died in a military helicopter crash near Rochester in January 2021.

An investigation later revealed the Black Hawk helicopter crashed due to a “procedural error during an emergency training maneuver.”

In the immediate aftermath of that crash, Schumer called for an investigation. On Wednesday he revealed what the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report had to say.

The investigation looked at 298 crashes between 2012 and 2021. It found 90 percent of the Army National Guard incidents were caused by human error.

“Let’s remember that many of these devastating crashes are preventable, and these safety reforms are the first step to making sure our pilots are prepared for every flight,” said Schumer (D. - NY).

Among those safety reforms are ensuring pilots receive the required training hours established by the Army and Air National Guard.

Schumer says pilots are not meeting this goal, in part, because of a lack of access to flight simulators.

While the 90 percent human error statistic focused on Army National Guard crashes, Black Hawk crashes also have happened within active duty U.S. Army.

Last month, nine soldiers died after two Black Hawk helicopters collided near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Closer to home, Fort Drum recently honored 11 soldiers who died when a Black Hawk crashed on post in 2003.