The US Army issued an aviation stand-down after two helicopter accidents claimed 12 lives in recent weeks.

Following a series of fatal helicopter crashes in recent weeks, the US Army temporarily grounded all its pilots last Friday until they complete additional training to prevent future incidents and ensure the safety of its personnel. The most recent being the two AH-64 Apache helicopters colliding mid-flight in a remote area of Alaska on April 28 and two Black Hawk medical evacuation choppers crashing during a nighttime training mission in Kentucky last month.

In a press release, General James McConville said to have ordered a force-wide stand-down for the Army’s Aviation units “except those participating in critical missions, until they complete the required training.”

The grounding will also include aircraft overseas deployed in Europe and combat zones such as Iraq and Syria., however, reported that a two-star general or above can disregard the stand-down in emergencies such as medivac missions.

“During the stand down, the Army will review the risk approval/risk management process, aviation maintenance training program, aircrew training standardization and management, and supervisory responsibility,” McConville added, stressing that the safety of the pilots is the service’s top priority.

The statement also noted that active-duty units must complete the 24-hour orientation on safety issues between May 1 and 5, while National Guard and Reserve units have until May 31. Once completed, aviation units will be allowed to resume flight activities.

The Latest Deadly Mishap in Alaska and More

The recent Apache helicopter incident near For Wainwright, Alaska, was the last straw that prompted the Army to issue the stand-down order.

Two AH-64s collided mid-flight last Thursday, killing three soldiers and injuring another. Among the casualties, two were declared dead at the scene, while the third soldier died en route to the hospital. The crew, which was returning from a training mission, belonged to the 11th Airborne Division.

A tragic incident occurred in southwestern Kentucky one month earlier when two US Army Black Hawk helicopters, piloted by experienced aviators from the 101st Airborne Division, crashed, losing all nine soldiers on board. Consequently, this incident is one of the deadliest training accidents in the service’s history.

As they flew in formation, both MEDEVAC choppers, piloted by personnel equipped with night vision goggles, were flying back from nighttime training when they collided and crashed into an open field.

Both recent deadly mishaps remain under investigation, but it has reignited scrutiny over helicopter safety, particularly with the Black Hawks’ patchy track record.

In a separate report, tackled the growing concern surrounding go-to workhorse, underscoring approximately 60 casualties due to Black Hawk-related training incidents in the past decade. These incidents have subsequently raised questions about the safety of the Black Hawk and its suitability for military operations.

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It, however, noted that although the Black Hawk helicopter has been involved in several high-profile accidents, this is relatively low compared to other major military platforms, especially when you consider all of the hours they have flown. Further suggesting that, regarding safety, the Army’s most heavily utilized aircraft performs reasonably well compared to other military aircraft.

Technical Failure or Human Error?

Aside from the two recent mishaps, another Black Hawk crash in Alabama also happened in February, which killed two Tennessee National Guard soldiers.

According to, citing a congressional investigation report on National Guard helicopter-related incidents, part-time service has been found to be susceptible to systemic failures as they were prone to commit mistakes due to “poor training management, haphazard maintenance, overconfidence, and relatively little oversight on safety precautions.”

This report highlighted several other incidents, including the 2021 crash in Rochester that claimed the lives of three New York Guardsmen during routine training and the 2015 accident in Florida, which resulted in the deaths of four Louisiana National Guardsmen and seven Marines during nighttime training. While the former fatal wreck has prompted this congressional investigation, safety concerns have already been a concern since the utility chopper entered service in the late 1970s.

Not The First-time

One of the earliest flight suspensions issued by the Army to some of its aviation units was in 1985, when they grounded all Black Hawks after a series of significant crashes recorded between 1981 to 1984.

Also known as UH-60, the Black Hawk helicopter is a medium-lift utility chopper developed by Sikorsky Aircraft in the late 1970s, designed to replace the aging fleet of UH-1 Iroquois, famously known as Huey.

Upon entering service, the Black Hawk quickly became one of the Army’s most versatile workhorses, offering a wide range of capabilities such as troop transport, MEDEVAC, and attack missions. Over the years, it has undergone several upgrades and variations to cater to different military operations.

UH-60 of the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Today, the UH-60 reportedly accounts for 63 percent of the Army’s fleet, while 21 percent and 15 percent comprise AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinooks, respectively.

More than two weeks after the Black Hawk-Kentucky incident, the Army released the names of the soldiers killed at the Fort Campbell crash.

They are:

  • Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes, 33;
  • Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23;
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36;
  • Sgt. Isaacjohn Gayo, 27;
  • Staff Sgt. Joshua C. Gore, 25;
  • Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32;
  • Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30;
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32; and
  • Sgt. David Solinas Jr., 23.

May they all rest in peace.

Meanwhile, the names of the soldiers lost in the Apache-Alaska incident are yet to be announced.

As mentioned, the Fort Campbell mishap is one of the deadliest training incidents in the Army’s history, eerily reminiscent of a similar incident in 1988 where 17 101st Airborne soldiers died after two Black Hawks collided at around 10 PM in fair weather. (You might also want to check out the intense recount of the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia, that resulted in dozens of death, including eighteen Americans in ‘Black Hawk Down‘ by Mark Bowen. Grab a copy here)

Regarding the recent helicopter crash, McConville expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and vowed they would thoroughly review its safety procedures to prevent more fatalities.

“It is their loss that makes it all the more important we review our safety procedures and training protocols, and ensure we are training and operating at the highest levels of safety and proficiency,” McConville said via the released statement.