Schumer calls for feds to investigate Army, National Guard 'vertical lift' programs in wake of deadly helicopter crashes

Updated: February 22, 2021 07:28 PM
Created: February 22, 2021 01:22 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C.(WHEC) —United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday he is calling for a federal investigation into the safety of vertical lift programs in the U.S. Army and Air National Guards in wake of two recent deadly Black Hawk helicopter crashes.

In a letter to Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro, Schumer requests the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct the investigation, as he says, the crashes exposed an "increased risk" associated with vertical lift aircraft, and added the frequency of crashes demands "greater examination" into their cause.

Schumer called on the GAO to answer and investigate the following questions in a letter sent following both crashes:

  • What are the trends in Army and Air National Guard accidents involving vertical lift aircraft, and what causes have been associated with the accidents?
  • To what extent does the Army and Air National Guard use risk management procedures to mitigate accidents that involve vertical lift aircraft?
  •  What are the trends in the average number of hours flown by National Guard vertical aircraft pilots and to what extent have pilots received the recommended number of hours to achieve required training?
  •  What are the trends in the maintenance availability rates of National Guard vertical lift aircraft and to what extent have the rates met National Guard or fleet-wide goals?   
  • How have resources (e.g., flying hours, operation and maintenance funds) available for National Guard vertical lift squadrons compared with Active Component units, and to what extent has the Army analyzed and addressed any gaps that exist?

The first crash happened in Mendon on Jan. 20, it  killed three New York National Guard soldiers. Chief Warrant Officers Christian KochSteven Skoda and Daniel Prial all died as they were out on a routine training mission.  Then, on Feb.3,  three Idaho National Guard soldiers were killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash. Those soldiers were also on a routine training mission. News10NBC found there were a total of four crashes in just over a year.

The incidents involved the UH-60 model, a model News10NBC investigated in January. Previously, NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called for the copters to be grounded while the Pentagon continues its investigation into the crashes.

Schumer said the federal investigation would run along with the Pentagon's, the senator reaffirmed his support for that investigation.

Schumer's full letter is below.

Schumer GAO Letter by News10NBC on Scribd



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