US Naval Air Forces orders partial stand-down pending inspection

U.S. Navy photo

The aviation branch of the United States Navy decided to ground all planes and helicopters that are not currently deployed following two crashes in less than a week, one of which caused the death of an instructor and their student.

On October 20, 2020, an F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet of the United States Navy crashed during a routine training mission near China Lake Test Base, California. Fortunately, the pilot managed to eject safely. Three days later, a Beechcraft T-6B Texan II training plane crashed in a residential area in southern Alabama, killing both the U.S. Navy instructor and the Coast Guard student on board.

As a reaction, on October 26, 2020, Vice-Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell, commander of the Naval Air Forces, announced that every U.S. Navy plane and helicopter not currently deployed on a carrier or overseas would be grounded. Additionally, the whole aviation fleet of the Navy, deployed or not, will undergo a thorough inspection.

“This stand-down provides an opportunity for our aviation commands to focus on how to further improve operational risk management and risk mitigation across the Naval Aviation enterprise,” the Navy explained in a statement. The exact duration of the grounding was not disclosed.

Ironically, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps recently celebrated an “unprecedented milestone” by closing the previous fiscal year without a single aviation-related fatality, a first in recorded naval aviation history.

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