SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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[H.A.S.C. No. 10829]
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AVIATION SAFETY INITIATIVES
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH CONGRESS
FEBRUARY 11, 2004
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
One Hundred Eighth Congress
DUNCAN HUNTER, California, Chairman
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland
HOWARD P. ''BUCK'' McKEON, California
MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
WALTER B. JONES, North Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
HEATHER WILSON, New Mexico
KEN CALVERT, California
ROB SIMMONS, Connecticut
JO ANN DAVIS, Virginia
ED SCHROCK, Virginia
W. TODD AKIN, Missouri
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
JEFF MILLER, Florida
JOE WILSON, South Carolina
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
TOM COLE, Oklahoma
JEB BRADLEY, New Hampshire
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROB BISHOP, Utah
MICHAEL TURNER, Ohio
JOHN KLINE, Minnesota
CANDICE S. MILLER, Michigan
PHIL GINGREY, Georgia
MIKE ROGERS, Alabama
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
IKE SKELTON, Missouri
JOHN SPRATT, South Carolina
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
LANE EVANS, Illinois
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
MARTY MEEHAN, Massachusetts
SILVESTRE REYES, Texas
VIC SNYDER, Arkansas
JIM TURNER, Texas
ADAM SMITH, Washington
LORETTA SANCHEZ, California
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
ROBERT A. BRADY, Pennsylvania
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
SUSAN A. DAVIS, California
JAMES R. LANGEVIN, Rhode Island
STEVE ISRAEL, New York
RICK LARSEN, Washington
JIM COOPER, Tennessee
JIM MARSHALL, Georgia
KENDRICK B. MEEK, Florida
MADELEINE Z. BORDALLO, Guam
RODNEY ALEXANDER, Louisiana
TIM RYAN, Ohio
Robert S. Rangel, Staff Director
John Sullivan, Professional Staff
JJ Gertler, Staff Assistant
Jesse Tolleson, Research Assistant
Justin Bernier, Research Assistant
C O N T E N T S
Wednesday, February 11, 2004, Department of Defense (DOD) Aviation Safety Initiatives
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAPPENDIX:
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2004
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AVIATION SAFETY INITIATIVES
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Hunter, Hon. Duncan, a Representative from California, Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
Skelton, Hon. Ike, a Representative from Missouri, Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
Bolkcom, Christopher, Specialist in National Defense, Congressional Research Service
Brooks, Rear Adm. Richard E., USN, Commander, United States Naval Safety Center
Helland, Brig. Gen. Samuel T., USMC, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (AA), United States Marine Corps
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Hess, Maj. Gen. Kenneth W., OSD/USAF, Air Force Chief of Safety and Commander, United States Air Force Safety Center
Smith, Brig. Gen. Joseph A., USA, Director of Army Safety and Commanding General, United States Army Safety Center
[The prepared Statements can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Brooks, Rear Adm. Richard E.
Helland, Grig. Gen. Samuel T.
Hess, Maj. Gen. Kenneth W.
Hunter, Hon. Duncan
Skelton, Hon. Ike
Smith, Brig. Gen. Joseph A.
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DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[The Documents submitted can be viewed in the hard copy.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AVIATION SAFETY INITIATIVES
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, February 11, 2004.
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 11:04 a.m., in room 2118, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Duncan Hunter (chairman of the committee) presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOEL HEFLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM COLORADO, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
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Mr. HEFLEY [presiding]. If our witnesses could take their seats and we will get going. I believe Mr. Taylor has a motion. Mr. Taylor, you are recognized.
Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Chairman, I move that all funds for the Base Closure and Realignment Commission be deleted from this year's budget.
Mr. HEFLEY. Without objection, so ordered. [Laughter.]
If we could get started, welcome. The committee will come to order. Mr. Hunter will be joining us shortly, but he is tied up right now.
Today, the full committee meets to receive testimony on military aviation safety initiatives. Today's hearing will review the past ten year history of the services class A mishaps. Class A's are the most severe accidents in which an aircraft is destroyed. Damages of $1 million or more that occur are the mishap results, and a fatality or permanent total disability. Mishap statistics are provided as the number of mishaps per 100,000 flying hours.
Historically speaking, the military's rate of aviation accidents has gone down dramatically over the years. For instance, in 1950 the Air Force and the Navy had rates of 36 and 50 mishaps per 100,000 flying hours respectively. By comparison, last year the mishap rate for the entire DOD was roughly two. For the 10-year period between 1990 and 2000, overall mishaps rates declined from just over two to about 1.5. However, in 2002 and 2003, the department's overall mishap rate jumped back up about two mishaps per 100,000 flying hours.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The question is, why is this happening? It is well established Chairman Hunter is a strong proponent of modernizing our armed forces with new equipment and reducing the average age of our aircraft inventories. While I understand that human factors are the most prevalent cause-factors in the military's aviation accidents, I hope that today's witnesses will help the committee understand how aircraft aging has affected recent mishap rates.
Military aviation safety is a concern to policymakers in both the DOD and Congress. We want to improve aviation safety because aviation accidents erode the department's war fighting capabilities by degrading readiness and reducing the number of aircraft readily available. Sometimes entire fleets of aircraft are grounded during an accident investigation. Accidents also consume financial resources, since damaged aircraft must be repaired and destroyed aircraft must be replaced.
Most importantly, accidents are also hard on personnel. They hurt morale and cost lives. According to the DOD, 3,072 people died in military aviation accidents between 1980 and 2003. On May 19, 2003, the Secretary of Defense challenged the military services to improve accident rates. He said world-class organizations do not tolerate preventable accidents. Our accident rates have increased recently and we need to turn this situation around. This committee strongly supports the Secretary's challenge to the services.
To address this and other important military aviation issues, the committee has invited a distinguished panel to testify before us today. From the Congressional Research Service, we welcome Mr. Christopher Bolkcom, specialist in national defense and author of a recent report for Congress on military aviation safety. From the Air Force, we are glad to have Major General Kenneth Hess, Air Force Chief of Safety and Commander of the Air Force Safety Center. General Hess also chairs the Defense Safety Oversight Council's Aviation Safety Improvement Task Force. From the Navy, Rear Admiral Richard Brooks, Commander of the United States Naval Safety Center joins us. To address the Marine Corps Aviation Safety, we have Brigadier General Samuel Helland, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation. Finally, from the Army we have Brigadier General Joseph A. Smith, Director of Army Safety and Commanding General of the United States Army Safety Center.
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Gentlemen, we look forward to your testimony today. I now recognize the committee's ranking member, Mr. Skelton, for any remarks he might like to make.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hunter can be viewed in the hard copy.]
STATEMENT OF HON. IKE SKELTON, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM MISSOURI, RANKING MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Gentlemen, welcome to you.
The first job that I ever had was washing airplanes at the old Lexington, Missouri airport, Piper Cubs, Aeronicas, a Culver Cadet. I see your faces glazing over when I mention those planes, but that was a day when aviation and safety were not really words you put together. The planes were then the hottest things going.
Today they are vintage. That is a nice way of saying that they are old. On Monday, I visited with the men and women who are building America's next air superiority fighter, the F/A22 down in Marietta, Georgia. The care and precision of their work is just amazing. Like the F/A22, we have a lot of new aircraft in our budget. For each of the services, today they are the hottest thing going, but someday they will be old.
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Age is not the only reason airplanes and helicopters crash. Accident rates have a lot more to do with how we spend money on spare parts, how well we finance operations, maintenance, very significantly with the operational tempo (OPTEMPO). Looking at the testimony our witnesses prepared, I am impressed that despite high OPTEMPO, despite worldwide deployments, and despite budgets that sometimes sacrifice operation and maintenance or modernization, flying continues to be safe, if somewhat an unnatural activity.
I will be very interested to hear from each of you where the real strains come from in keeping flying safe. Are we working our pilots too hard? Are we training to satisfactory standards? Is there enough money for maintenance? Is there enough money for parts? New airplanes are nice to have, but we will be flying a mature fleet for the foreseeable future. We all know that. So I look forward, gentlemen, to how we are going to keep them flying.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Skelton can be viewed in the hard copy.]
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you, Mr. Skelton.
For each of our witnesses, without objection the entirety of your prepared statements will be entered into the record. Mr. Bolkcom, let us start with you, to provide an overview of the military's aviation safety processes and record. The floor is yours, and then you will be followed by General Hess, Admiral Brooks, and Generals Helland and Smith.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF MR. CHRISTOPHER BOLKCOM, SPECIALIST IN NATIONAL DEFENSE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENSE AND TRADE DIVISION, CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Mr. BOLKCOM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Skelton, distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for inviting me to speak with you today about military aviation safety. I will address this morning three questions you will find treated at greater length in my written statement which we have just entered into the record.
The first question I would like to address is whether DOD's current level of aviation safety is acceptable. The answer is highly subjective. As you pointed out, on the one hand military aviation today appears much safer than it was 50 years ago. In 1955, DOD suffered over 2,200 class A mishaps, the most serious type of flight accidents. By 1999, this number had dropped to 70. Similarly, the number and frequency of deaths and the number and frequency of aircraft destroyed has decreased significantly over the past 50 years. From this historical perspective, the contemporary record is really a good news story.
On the other hand, the rate of aviation safety improvements has stagnated over the past 10 years, and the rate of class A mishaps has doubled recently from 1.23 class A mishaps per 100,000 flight hours in the year 2000, to 2.03 in 2003. This is bad news, and leads some to argue that DOD can and should further reduce its rate of aviation mishaps. As you noted, Secretary Rumsfeld, for example, has challenged the services to reduce all mishaps by 50 percent. A third perspective is that no mishaps are acceptable and DOD should strive toward and achieve a zero mishap rate.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second question I would like to address is what causes mishaps. This is difficult to answer because many factors can contribute to aviation mishaps and most mishaps do involve more than one factor. That said, aircraft age, high operations tempo and human error are frequently cited as factors that affect aviation safety.
Many assume that older aircraft are more prone to mishaps. However, a cause and effect relationship between aircraft age and safety is unproven. Mishap rates have generally decreased as the average age of DOD's aircraft have increased. Some of DOD's oldest aircraft, such as the KC-135, the B-52, have good safety records. Similarly, no statistical correlation has been made between high OPTEMPO and high rates of mishaps. We have seen periods of high OPTEMPO correspond with high mishaps, but also low mishaps as well.
In contrast, there appears to be a strong body of evidence that human error is a dominant factor in military aviation safety. The General Accounting Office, each of the services and the Coast Guard have all estimated that human error is a factor in 70 percent to 90 percent of all aviation mishaps.
The final question I would like to address this morning is what can be done to further promote aviation safety. The recent 10-year plateau in safety improvements may mean that the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked, and that improving safety in the future may be more difficult than it was in the past. Therefore, initiatives that address safety on a broad level may be required.
In 1997, the Defense Science Board, which is DOD's premier body of scientific advisers, found that ''leadership is the single most important factor affecting aviation safety.'' This suggests that it may be important to find new ways to let top leaders in DOD know that safety is a high priority and to hold these leaders accountable. Making organizational changes may also help promote aviation safety.
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The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is responsible for setting aviation policies and providing oversight. Yet, OSD's current staffing levels may inhibit it from executing these responsibilities effectively. At one point, OSD had eight staff members dedicated to aviation safety. Yet, these positions have gradually been eliminated, culminating last week in fact in the retirement of the final staff member with expertise and responsibility for aviation safety.
Also, it may prove fruitful to investigate how the joint staff and the combatant commands might contribute to aviation safety. OSD directs to the joint staff and combatant commanders investigate, report, and keep records on mishaps, but these organizations generally do not have the staff or procedures dedicated to fulfilling this obligation. Many argue that safety initiatives are under funded because they do not compete well with major acquisition programs in DOD's budget process. Thus, devising techniques to give safety more traction in the budget may be beneficial.
Finally, many argue that the services are slow to field safety equipment that is commonly found in commercial aviation. Encouraging more aggressive investment in technologies such as ground proximity warning systems, flight data and cockpit video recorders, and tactile situational awareness systems may help improve aviation safety.
Mr. Chairman, this does conclude my remarks. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. I look forward to any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bolkcom can be viewed in the hard copy.]
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Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF MAJ. GEN. KENNETH W. HESS, OSD/USAF, AIR FORCE CHIEF OF SAFETY AND COMMANDER, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE SAFETY CENTER
General HESS. Mr. Chairman, Congressman Skelton, distinguished members of the committee, it is my pleasure to be here this morning on behalf of the Air Force and the DOD to discuss aviation safety.
As a Nation, our aviation assets are unsurpassed. We have the capability of quickly establishing air dominance anywhere our national interest is challenged, and we must be able to accomplish this task without unnecessary risk to our pilots, our crews or our passengers. As I am sure this morning's session will bear out, the DOD and the services are committed to reducing aviation mishaps and mishap rates.
In addition to being the Air Force Chief of Safety, as I mentioned, I am here as the representative of the DOD because I chair the Aviation Safety Improvement Task Force under the Defense Safety Oversight Council. Since taking office, Secretary Rumsfeld has sought to change how the DOD views the safety of its military personnel and civilian employees. Our goal is zero preventable mishaps, and we have taken major steps in that direction.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In a May letter to the Department's leadership, the Secretary challenged all of us to reduce the number and rate of mishaps by 50 percent over 2 years. This is not a business-as-usual approach and will require real cultural change. To enable this change, the Secretary of Defense chartered the Defense Safety Oversight Council (DSOC) to address the challenges. The council has established several task forces to recommend policies, programs and investments to reduce accidents and injuries.
The Aviation Safety Improvement Task Force is a joint team from all the services. We have representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), commercial aviation, as well as industry. My counterpart at the Naval Safety Center, Admiral Brooks, serves as its vice-chair. This task force will use a data-driven approach to provide factual underpinnings that support long-term risk and mishap reduction efforts.
As you know, a straightforward look at Air Force mishap rates over the past decade shows only slight improvement, but a pure numbers perspective alone does not adequately describe the operating environment that produced those numbers. During this decade, the Air Force got about 40 percent smaller, but our deployments and OPTEMPO have reached new highs as we have sustained combat operations in the Balkans and Northern and Southern Watch. It was also exacerbated with the beginning of the global war on terrorism, with Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The result of this tempo has been higher risk levels, not only during combat operations, but also during training and deployments as well. Taken in the fullest context, the Air Force's safety record over the past decade is exceptional, in my opinion. That said, the spike we experienced in 2002 was taken very seriously by the Air Force leadership. General Jumper and Air Force leaders down to squadron and fight level have worked diligently to drive that rate back down. Consequently, our mishap experience in fiscal year 2003 was more nearly like the decade average of about 1.38 mishaps per 100,000 hours of flying time, but that is still not good enough.
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Still, the larger question remains: Can we afford today's mishap rate tomorrow? The DSOC aviation improvement task force's data-driven approach is the right strategy to identify hazards and implement controls to reduce the risk in current operations. The Air Force has completed an initial 10-year mishap analysis and the results of that effort point to the need to concentrate our efforts in the following areas: controlled flight into terrain, powerplant failures, mid-air collisions, and loss of control in flight. I am confident that many, if not all, of these areas will surface as our task force begins its work.
This committee expressed an interest in aging airplanes and its effect on mishap rates. To answer this concern directly, there are no aging issues that drive our current mishap rates. The Air Force has aggressive programs and uniform standards of air-worthiness that apply to all airplanes. This process is in place from the initial development through aircraft retirement. We have developed a structured program for assuring operational safety, suitability and effectiveness of our systems, and the end-items throughout their life cycle.
Mr. Chairman, over the past 10 years the Air Force has lost more than 300 airmen, nearly 250 aircraft, all valued at about $11 billion. These aviation accidents could have been prevented. The Air Force fully endorses Secretary Rumsfeld's 50 percent reduction goal as a beginning, and we realize that real change has to start at the grassroots level. Commanders and supervisors, the leaders, as Mr. Bolkcom has indicated in his remarks, are accountable for safety practices and standards and must take action to reduce the rates. Clearly, safety must be a priority for everyone.
General Jumper, our Chief of Staff, recognizes this priority and recently established the Air Force operational safety council, chaired by the Vice Chief of Staff. This council is composed of the senior levels of the corporate leaders and our major command vice-commanders. They will look at emerging technologies from both an operational and safety perspective, and direct required changes to Air Force policy, programs, and investments.
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In closing, much work has been done, but we are aggressively working to make significant improvements in aviation safety. The Secretary's 50 percent reduction goal is achievable and will directly increase our operational readiness. We are a world-class military and will not tolerate preventable accidents. We owe no less to the men and women who defend our Nation.
Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to be here and I am prepared to answer your questions at the end.
[The prepared statement of General Hess can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN [presiding]. General Hess, thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF REAR ADM. RICHARD E. BROOKS, USN, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES NAVAL SAFETY CENTER
Admiral BROOKS. Mr. Chairman, Congressman Skelton, distinguished members of the House Armed Services Committee, I am Rear Admiral Dick Brooks, Commander of the Naval Safety Center. Together with my Marine Corps colleague, Brigadier General Sam Helland, I am here to present the current state of naval aviation safety.
As we review past naval aviation safety performance, we note significant mishap reduction rates over the past five decades. In 1954, naval aviation was averaging 54 mishaps per 100,000 hours. As of the end of fiscal year 2003, the rate was 2.42. While that was in the past, there is a common theme, for today, as in the past, our aviation safety efforts are designed to save lives, our most precious asset, preserve the valuable equipment entrusted to our men and women, and enhance our combat readiness.
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As we review aviation mishap rates, I believe it is important to focus on trends, rather than on individual years. Such a trend analysis provides tangible evidence of where you are, and more importantly, where you need to go. This analysis today shows an existing viable aviation safety program, a program always facing challenges due to the high-risk nature of flight operations, but also a program that has shown many successes.
It is equally important to analyze mishap characteristics to provide focus for those areas needing correction and intervention. While today we are doing very well, we are not content with historical successes and continually strive to further reduce mishaps. To accomplish this, the first step is to review and analyze mishap causes. As we review the past 5 years, we note 83 percent of our class A flight mishaps were from human error, or had human error involved, either maintenance, air crew or supervisory. In addition, 36 percent involved some form of material failure.
Once we analyzed our mishap causes, we identified areas having the largest impact on mishap reduction. These include leadership, training and education, resources and technology. Before briefly discussing our accomplishments and programs in these areas, allow me first to provide an overview of our successful safety programs. There are many ways to compare these savings, and I have chosen 10-and 5-year comparison periods to highlight what we have saved in mishaps, lives and resources.
First, a comparison of the 10-year period from 1994 to 2003, to the period from fiscal years 1984 to 1993. During 1994 to 2003, we reduced mishaps by 106 class A flight mishaps, saved 132 lives and approximately $3 billion in valuable resources. Looking at a more recent five year comparison for the same statistics, comparing fiscal years 1999 to 2003, to fiscal years 1994 to 1998, we saved nine class A flight mishaps, 14 lives, and $541 million. These trends indicate our aviation safety program is effective and is positively impacting where it counts most, saving lives and preserving valuable equipment and resources.
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In my opening remarks, I mentioned leadership, education and training as key focus areas. In the area of leadership, in January 2003, Commander Naval Air Force developed and instituted an operational risk management, or ORM, and fundamentals campaign designed to prevent and reduce aviation mishaps. In response to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's challenge to reduce the number of mishaps and accident rates by at least 50 percent over the next two years, we have taken additional steps.
In September 2003, we established the Navy-Marine Corps Safety Council, with an aviation safety committee, to address aviation-specific areas and look for new and innovative ways to reduce mishaps. This plan's guiding precepts include an operational risk management-based assessment of high-risk evolutions that result in questionable readiness and tactical returns, and eliminating any cultural mindset that mishaps are the cost of doing business. As General Hess pointed out, we are also fully engaged in the DSOC process and the aviation task force.
Once again in the area of education and training, all Navy and Marine Corps squadrons complete naval safety center-conducted safety surveys where a team analyzes a squadron by reviewing operational, training, maintenance, administrative procedures, and identifying the unit's strong points, as well as areas needing improvement. Today, humans play a progressively more important causal role in aviation mishaps. Consequently, the Naval Safety Center Aeromedical Division is addressing the complex human error issue.
In that regard, a human factors analysis classification system has been developed and adopted as an accident investigation and analysis tool for the Navy and Marine Corps. The goal is to address trends in human performance related to human error, possibly associated with perception, adverse mental or physiological states, or simply skill-based in nature, where the end-goal is to better understand, predict, and ultimately further reduce mishaps.
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Today we are also deeply involved in some of the issues of aging aircraft. We continuously embrace emerging technologies and innovative training for aviators and maintainers, and to date, despite ages of many Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, the statistics testify to our many successes in safely maintaining and flying our legacy aircraft. Rigid inspection cycles, monthly, quarterly, annually, and required inspections based on engine hours result in mission-capable and safe operation of our aircraft despite their age.
To specifically address the issue of aging aircraft, Naval Air Systems Command stood up an aging aircraft integrated process team and is also part of the larger joint council on aging aircraft. This program's purpose is to develop effective solutions to combat the effects of aging aircraft on operational readiness.
Shifting to current and emerging technologies, some long-term initiatives include studies of successful civilian programs, and then converting them to military use, such as flight operations quality assurance. We are also continuing to research for new programs and emerging technologies, such as the tactile situation awareness system or TSAS, which is a vest with nodes that accurately make a pilot aware of aircraft movement and motion.
I also want to mention our project to Web-enable the current mishap reporting and data collection system in use at the naval safety center, known as the Web-enabled safety system or WESS. This Web-based system will truly streamline our safety business process and put timely and relevant information in the hands of those who need it most.
As for resources and naval aviation's commitment to safety, the funding line for safety-related systems has been increased. Recognizing the need to maintain war fighting capability in concert with safe operations, the Department of the Navy has invested in safety related improvements and activities to support naval aviation. To complement a timely recapitalization program that encompasses more than $11 billion a year in procurement and associated RDT&E, the Navy has provided more than $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2005 to target specific improvements in the safety and reliability of our legacy fleet.
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In addition to safety investments and collision-avoidance and ground proximity warning systems, other funding priorities include such programs as the EA-6B outer wing panel and center wing section replacements; P-3 special structural inspections; and numerous communication/avionics and engine upgrades across a myriad of platforms.
Mr. Chairman, we believe naval aviation's overall safety programs and safe operating practices are a natural consequence of a winning organization that is dedicated to safe operations. Our trends indicate such, and our efforts continuously focus on prevention. Our safety culture does not accept loss of life or equipment, or maintaining the status quo as a cost of doing business. Rather, we approach aviation safety with the belief that one mishap is too many.
On issues like those I have described, our push is to find and adapt other programs that will further reduce mishaps and maintain a naval aviation culture of safety through readiness.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today. I stand by for your questions, sir.
[The prepared statement of Admiral Brooks can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN. Admiral, thank you.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF BRIG. GEN. SAMUEL T. HELLAND, USMC, ASSISTANT DEPUTY COMMANDANT FOR AVIATION (AA), UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
General HELLAND. Chairman Hunter, Congressman Skelton and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for affording me the opportunity to discuss Marine aviation safety. I understand my full statement will be entered into the record, so I will just make a few short remarks.
The Marine Corps is absolutely committed to aggressively pursuing the reduction of aviation mishaps. We recognize the critical role of Congress in this process, and we know that your attention will help to improve and focus our efforts to achieve this goal. Though we are proud of our recent accomplishments in combat operations, we know that significant challenges still confront Marine aviation safety. I have outlined some of those challenges in my statement, along with the many steps we are taking to address them and to mitigate existing risks to material and human performance.
My statement discusses historical trends to aircraft mishaps and we have also provided additional data to the committee on specific questions. Marine aviation is involved in an increasing number of initiatives to improve aviation safety, and we believe these will ultimately provide the American people with a more capable ready Marine Corps.
Mr. Chairman, we all know, however, that aviation safety is more than just statistics and programs. Less than two weeks ago, we suffered a tragic aircraft mishap at Camp Pendleton, California. Four brave Marines, Captain Adam Miller, First Lieutenant Michael Lawlor, Staff Sergeant Lori Anne Privette, and Corporal Joshua Harris gave their lives in defense of our country. I think all of us here in this room owe our complete dedication to reducing the risk of these terrible mishaps. These precious lives of our air crews and their passengers are depending on us.
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Mr. Chairman, I know the members of the committee have a lot of important questions and would like to allow maximum time to answer them, so I will conclude my statement here.
[The prepared statement of General Helland can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, General.
STATEMENT OF BRIG. GEN. JOSEPH A. SMITH, USA, DIRECTOR OF ARMY SAFETY AND COMMANDING GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY CENTER
General SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Skelton, distinguished members of the committee. This is certainly a unique opportunity for me, so I would like to start off by thanking each of you for what you do for our soldiers each and every day.
You have my statement for the record, but I would like to emphasize a couple of points. First, as you just heard from General Helland, safety is personal. I know it is personal to you. Most of you have been in-theater. I understand, Mr. Chairman, you just returned. It is personal to senior Army leadership, and one-fourth of Army general officers have sons and daughters serving today. It is personal to me. I have a son that is a first lieutenant Apache longbow platoon leader who is going into his second tour in Iraq in a few weeks.
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Second, because it is personal, we are engaged. We are engaged at the Secretary of the Army's level. He is rolling out a strategic Army campaign plan in March. That is being briefed to the senior Army leadership today. We are engaged in the field. Lieutenant General Sanchez has put a full-court press on safety as we have units moving in and out of theater. As the Secretary of the Army said yesterday, that is about 250,000 soldiers in about four months, and about half the aircraft we have in-theater today will be reduced.
We are engaged at the safety center. We basically do three things, like a triangle, for the Army. We assess through centralized accident investigation; we communicate to help the situational awareness; and we strongly coach risk management to try to get three sets of eyes on every activity.
I am excited to be here today and share what the Army is doing in safety. Let me start by putting the aviation class A accidents into context. Over the last 30 years, we have had a continuous downward trend through a lot of hard work. In the last three years, we have clearly had an increase in class As. From where I sit at the safety center, I look at all accidents as class A, which was described as a $1 million accident, down to a class C, which could be a $20,000 accident. We learn just as much from the small accidents as we do from the large ones. When I normalize those figures over the last ten years, we have not had an increase. We have actually had a steady state during the last three years for total accidents.
There has been a lot in the press about aircraft lost. It is important to note that of the 36 aircraft that have been destroyed in the Army, only 11 of those have been accidents. One of the things that I pay close attention to are fatalities. Over the last 10 years, aviation has caused less than 8 percent of our fatalities. In our worst year, which was last year, it was 12 percent.
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What makes me not go to sleep at night is I look at all fatalities, and when I compare that to our privately owned vehicles over the last 10 years, we have lost 56 percent of our soldiers in their automobiles. So we certainly have a lot of work to do on the aviation side, but we have also done a lot right and we are trying to take those lessons-learned and put those in our ground and privately owned vehicle programs.
That completes my opening statement, because I know you have questions. I welcome those. Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of General Smith can be viewed in the hard copy.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, General.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Let me ask each of our uniformed guests today to give me a one-word answer to this question. What is the most significant factor underlying aircraft accidents? General Hess?
General HESS. It would have to be the human factor, sir.
Mr. SKELTON. Admiral?
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Admiral BROOKS. Human error, sir.
Mr. SKELTON. General?
General SMITH. Human error, sir. Yes, sir.
Mr. SKELTON. A question for our Marine Corps friend. Mr. Bolkcom has as part of his testimony a chart, table one, DOD aviation class A mishaps, 1980 to 2003. He gives the total number and then he gives a percentage mishap rate per 100,000 flight hours; Air Force, 1.46; Army, 1.8; Navy, 2.33; Marine Corps, 4.07.
General Helland, may I ask why the differential in the mishap rate for the Marine Corps compared to the other three services? Your best judgment please.
General HELLAND. Yes, sir. My best judgment would say this. The good news is it is on the decline. The bad news, it is probably higher than the other services. Marine Corps aviation is mostly tactical aircraft and tactical air systems. So most of our flight time is done in a very aggressive and you would say harsh environment. We do not have a lot of transport aircraft and those aircraft that fly straight and level for a long period of time, and develop a lot of flight hours. So all our flight hours are 1-hour flights, 1.2 hour flights, not long-duration flights.
So our accident rate is really over a smaller number of hours, so any incidents that occur, that gives kind of a numbers or a tyranny of numbers effect. That is one of the reasons why our aircraft mishap rate is probably a little bit higher. But sir, if you look at the overall trend, you will see that the Marine Corps has the least amount of accidents of all the services in that particular time.
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Mr. SKELTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Colorado, and I want to thank Mr. Hefley for chairing this hearing and starting it off.
Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We say ''human error,'' and yet we know that military flight is inherently dangerous, particularly fighter planes and helicopters and so forth. We are always working at it, but how realistic is it to get that human error down much more than it is now, first. Second, my impression is that those of you who fly helicopters have more accidents than those who fly fixed wings. Is a helicopter innately more dangerous to fly, more difficult to fly, more moving parts or whatever than fixed-wing aircraft?
General SMITH. If I could, I would like to start with your second question first. If you look at the fleet of 4,500 aircraft or so within the Army, they have a wide span of what they do. The TH67, which is a training aircraft at Fort Rucker, we launch about 200 of those a day, yet they have an accident rate that is almost statistically insignificant. That is because we fly them during the day. They are light. They are flown in a training environment with an experienced instructor pilot (IP).
From the safety center when I transition that and look at the AH64, for example, the Apache or the Kiowa Warrior, which are attack aircraft, we fly those in a very tough training environment, close to the trees, at night, under night vision devices, and in combat. So there is a clear difference in the helicopter world in terms of exposure and risk.
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The second part of your question, sir, had to do with training, and can we get at the 50 percent reduction.
Mr. HEFLEY. There is always going to be human error. We all make mistakes. When you have complex machinery that you are dealing with, how far can we hope to pull down the accident rate due to human error? I know we can pull down the mechanical things, and so forth, but how much further can we expect to go with the human error?
General SMITH. I think we are going to aggressively attack that with air crew coordination in the Army. We just had a new program established a few weeks ago and we should have that in the field within another couple of months. We see most of our accidents are associated with air crew coordination, what goes on in the cockpit, and we really do believe that by putting this new program in the field, it is continuation training. We are probably looking at 6 to 9 hours for each aviator. So we believe that will get after it.
The second half for us, because we think leadership is important, we have a new commanders's safety course, so we are trying to coach at the commander level, as well as what is going on in the cockpit. In answer to your question, I think we can reduce it.
General HESS. I would like to add to what General Smith has said. Certainly, our exposure in Afghanistan caused us to have helicopter mishap rates that were higher than normal. But I think the risk exposure in the operating environment was largely responsible for that, even though combat losses themselves, in other words aircraft that we lost due to direct enemy action, as it is referred to in the DOD instruction, we did not lose many for that, but on the way to and from supporting troops in the field, we would lose helicopters in the mountains where we were working on the very, very edge of our capability.
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Second with regard to human error, I still think that there is a lot we can do. There is a lot we are learning every day when it gets to interfacing the human and the cockpit and the mission together. Task mis-prioritization or task saturation, as you and I would call it, is a big deal in some of these mishaps when we take a look at trying to figure out what may have been going wrong in the cockpit. As the situation becomes critical and the aviator is starting to load-shed, if you will, certain things I am not doing so I can concentrate on other things, can get themselves behind the power curve and get in trouble.
So anything that we do in terms of bringing up the situational awareness in the machine itself will help prevent that kind of task mis-prioritization or task saturation that goes on. That technology is improving in leaps and bounds as we bring information into the cockpit.
On the ground, there are things we can do to take care of these very complex missions. Our simulation technology has moved from very mechanical, in-the-box kinds of simulators, to distributed training. Now it is moving to distributive mission operations where you are bringing many different elements together in the live, virtual and the simulated characteristics so that you are able to experience a lot of concentrated work before you ever get in the cockpit. I think that will improve the task saturation.
We talked a little bit earlier about the tactile vest that people are talking about, things that will help prevent special disorientation of an airman that is getting very, very busy and then forgets to pay attention to the altitude of his airplane and all of a sudden finds himself behind the power curve. This will improve as that technology comes into the force. So there are a lot of things we can do. It is clearly going to be one of the hardest things that we have to solve if we want to drive down mishap rates appreciably.
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Admiral BROOKS. Yes, sir, if I could add to that comment. I took over command of the Naval Safety Center in September. We started talking about human error. My question was, define human error for me. What is human error? Sir, as you pointed out, we all learn through making mistakes, what I call the honest mistake. That, to me, is very difficult to get at, but I mentioned we are doing some human factors work to try to pursue that.
There is another part of human error that we do not see quite as much of, but it is still out there. That is when people go out and do things they should not be doing. Sometimes those things cost us lives. They cost us resources. So the low-hanging fruit in this are, to me, right now is probably the standardization in the practices that have to be adhered to. We are doing that, ensuring that people know what the rules and regulations are, to minimize that.
The tougher part is the human error that people learn through mistakes. I agree with General Hess. It is through training, using simulation, having low-time flyers, say, those with less than 500 hours do things in the simulator that you really do not want them doing in the aircraft so they can learn in a free environment, if you will, and then take those best practices out into the aircraft.
So there is a lot we can do on the ground, but I always look at the human error part as those things that we can actually go after and make sure people adhere to the right standards. And then the ''how do we learn'' part of it, which is much more difficult to get after, but we all realize that is the piece we really have to focus on in many areas because as I said in my opening statement, 83 percent of what we see on the naval side is in fact human error.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HEFLEY. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. TAYLOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank all you gentlemen for being here.
Mr. Bolkcom, I found your comments particularly interesting when you talked that older systems are not necessarily less safe, and newer ones are not necessarily more safe. The Marines have made a decision to hang onto the UH1s until the V22 is ready to become part of the fleet.
My question is, do we hit a time should the V22 for whatever reason, be it technical reasons, budgetary reasons, developmental reasons, should it continue to be delayed, do we come to a time where the UH1s reach group obsolescence and the Marines are either flying very vulnerable aircraft or not able to fly them at all?
Mr. BOLKCOM. Pertaining to safety, sir, I believe that as long as they fly them, they will do their best to make them safe. I think that what is going to happen, if you saw such a scenario where the V22 was canceled or prolonged even. Further is that you would spend more money to keep these UH1s safe. So there are certain air-worthiness standards that they would adhere to, but it would become increasingly expensive. So I would not necessarily anticipate an increase in mishaps, but certainly could anticipate more energy, more time, more resources being put into that type of aircraft.
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Mr. TAYLOR. I would also like to open this up to the entire panel for both questions. The question, and again I do not by any means try to pass myself off as an aviation expert, but some of the experts who testified before this committee just last year were saying that we were reaching that group obsolescence on the KC135s. I would like to hear your opinion on that statement, and where do we stand on that apparently with the delay now of the big lease going to the Boeing Company.
Mr. BOLKCOM. Sir, from the safety perspective?
Mr. TAYLOR. Yes, that is what we are looking at, from the safety perspective.
Mr. BOLKCOM. Yes, sir. From a safety perspective, it is a multi-engined airplane. As one of my co-witnesses here mentioned earlier, it does fly a fairly benign flight profile and historically has had a very good safety record. Again, I think that if we do have problems with the aircraft, they will be terms of spending more money to operate and maintain it. I would not expect that effort to translate into higher mishap rates.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. Yes, sir?
General HESS. I will kind of pile in on top of that. From an Air Force perspective, the KC135 does have a very, very low mishap rate when you take a look at just pure safety numbers. It is around .35 or something like that per 100,000 hours of flying time. It is minuscule by comparison to some others that we could pick.
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It is largely due to the fact that it is multi-engined. There are multi-systems on it, a lot of redundancy. So from a safety standpoint, it does not put the airplane or the crew at tremendous risk at any time. When you try to say, is it safe and should it be continued? Or is it reaching the end of its service life? Those are two separate questions.
Mr. TAYLOR. Why don't you answer both those questions?
General HESS. All right, sir. We are going to maintain the flight safety standards of that airplane at whatever cost is required to keep it safe as long as it is in the inventory. If that means we have to take it out to the depot and take the wings off it and get corrosion off of it, we are going to do that because the flight safety standards will not be compromised.
On the other hand, when you take a look at the cost-benefit of whether or not you want to take them to the depot and take them apart one more time, and look at corrosion and stuff like that, in terms of how much more useful life is left in the machine versus the dollars you are going to spend on it, you could come up with a different answer. One is in the logistics realm, but in the safety realm and flight safety standards, it is going to stay safe as long as it is in the inventory.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. General Helland, I am curious if the Marines have given any thought to maybe going to some Blackhawks as a bridge between the UH1s and the V22? Or do you feel like that program is still on track and you are comfortable from a safety point of view with the progress in that transition from the UH1s to the V22?
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General HELLAND. Sir, the situation with the V22 is that is has accumulated over 1,050 flight hours in the developmental testing. We received the aircraft on time. They are in good shape. The contractor that is providing them has delivered them with a very minimal amount of aircraft discrepancies. They are flying and they are doing very well.
We just finished testing in Newfoundland where we did ice testing on the aircraft. It turned out very well and it is ongoing. We have an open process with our testing where we exchange data between the developmental testers and the operational testers. Our confidence is growing in the V22 and will continue if we stay on track and do our event-driven testing as we have planned now.
Mr. TAYLOR. What is the time line off the top of your head for the full transition out of the UH1 into the V11. Are we talking about another decade?
General HELLAND. One moment, sir. We are doing two transitions at the same time, sir. The H1 will transition to the H1 Yankee, and that will be in the November 2007-2008 time frame. The V22 will be coming in somewhere around the 2009 time frame, with initial operating capability (IOC). IOC meaning initial operation capability, to be able to put a full squadron forward-deployed. Right now, that is still on track, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, General.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. GIBBONS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen thank you from a grateful Nation for what you do for defending our country. We are very proud of the work you do.
I had a question with regard to safety statistics, particularly with the Air Force and the Army. In my experience, and I have been in both, active duty and National Guard rates, have you ferreted out, sorted out differences of accident rates, occurrences of accidents whether they were national guard or active duty? General Smith?
General SMITH. I am sorry, sir. I could not hear you please.
Mr. GIBBONS. Have you sorted out in your accident study and review of causation, differences between active duty and Guard accidents?
General SMITH. Yes, sir. We have looked at that quite a bit, and obviously because of the experience-base in our reserve component, generally when they are not deployed, they have a better safety record in general.
Mr. GIBBONS. Why would that be? You say just per experience.
General SMITH. Again, this comes from probably a 10-year snapshot of showing more experience in terms of total flight hours within the reserve component. But as we are seeing now as we are getting closer to deploying, we do not see anything that is statistically significant in terms of active or reserve with accidents.
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Mr. GIBBONS. General Hess, your experience in the Air Force Air National Guard?
General HESS. I would second what General Smith just said. We did a 10-year analysis, as I mentioned in our statement, and if you look back across all 10 years, the reserve and guard tend to have a better mishap rate statistic than the Air Force at large does. I think that goes right back to having a team that is put together for a long period of time, maintenance troops who work those airplanes and know them kind of like their car, so that familiarity helps a lot.
Mr. GIBBONS. Is there a usual difference between the age of the aircraft that the Guard is flying versus the age of the aircraft the active duty is flying?
General SMITH. In the Army, sir, as you know, we have been doing a lot of transitioning.
Mr. GIBBONS. You do cascade older equipment down to the Guard, don't you?
General SMITH. Yes, sir.
Mr. GIBBONS. So they are more difficult to maintain.
General SMITH. Sometimes that is true as we cascade, but again because of what General Hess was saying, the fixed facilities and the amount of time put on each individual aircraft, they do a great job maintaining those airplanes.
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Mr. GIBBONS. Let me ask General Hess. General Hess, do you anticipate extensive grounding of the F15 as it ages into the future? In other words, as it becomes an older weapon system with more and more expense required to fly per house, with greater and greater maintenance costs, do you see larger numbers of groundings of the F15, much like what Mr. Taylor asked about the KC135?
General HESS. Sir, I really do not have the information to answer that question for you effectively. If I could, I will take it for the record and get you an answer on what the current maintenance hour, manning per flying hour is, and the costs, so that we can get you the right answer.
Mr. GIBBONS. My question was just simply, obviously we do not put an aircraft into the air that is not air-worthy. As an aircraft or a weapons system ages, the air-worthiness is constantly being worked on. It is not a new system. So I see down the road, and I just wanted to get your opinion, whether or not that system was going to experience more grounding because of its age and the requirements for additional cost and maintenance.
Briefly, let me follow this up with a question. What suggestions have your safety boards made to reduce class A mishaps?
General HESS. Almost entirely, the recommendations will drive into the three areas. One is controlled flight into terrain, where you are trying to come up with reasons to prevent unexplained accidents, where you hit the ground. That is almost entirely in the technology area, things like ground collision avoidance systems and things of that nature. Engine technology has been a big driver of our mishap rate over the last decade.
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In the F16, for example, 40 percent of F16 class A mishaps are related to the single engine that is in it. The Air Force has invested quite a bit of money, certainly since the late 1990s to this particular time here, in upgrading that engine to increase its reliability and therefore increase its overall mishap statistics. So it would be things along those particular lines.
Mr. GIBBONS. I thank the gentleman and thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Texas has kindly allowed Mr. McKeon to go next. I know he has a pressing engagement here. Mr. McKeon was a driving force to have these hearings, so I want to thank you for pushing the hearings, Buck, and you are recognized for your questions.
Mr. MCKEON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the gentleman from Texas for giving me his time.
Gentlemen, thank you all for being here and thank you for what you are doing to improve our safety record to protect the lives of our service people. I appreciate what you are doing.
General Helland, I have some specific questions for you. You talked about in your opening comments the mishap rate in Desert Shield-Desert Storm was 8.42 and then in Iraqi Freedom, it is down to 5.96, and that is a good improvement.
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General HELLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. MCKEON. Do you have that broken out between the different aircraft?
General HELLAND. No, sir, I do not, but I can provide that if you wish.
Mr. MCKEON. I would appreciate that.
General HELLAND. Yes, sir, I will.
Mr. MCKEON. Specifically, I would like to see what the different aircraft mishap rates are.
General HELLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. MCKEON. Regarding the AV8B Harrier mishaps in calendar year 2003, could you talk specifically what were the causes of those accidents and what corrective measures have been taken or are being taken to fix those aircraft and alleviate those problems? And also the status of the investigations of the December 2003 mishaps.
General HELLAND. As of right now, sir, all of those accident investigations are in process. All the accident mishap boards have been formed and they are actively looking into what caused those accidents. If I were to speculate on the exact cause at this point, I think it would not be the right thing to do. So if I can, as they become available and the legal process has been completed, if I can provide them at that time, I will.
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Mr. MCKEON. I would appreciate that. I do not want you to speculate.
General HELLAND. I know that there have been five. One has to do with a training flight; one has to do with some sort of an anomaly in the aircraft on short final; one has to do with perhaps engine foreign object damage. We are looking into those right now. Again, to speculate would be improper on my part.
Mr. MCKEON. Right, right.
What are the required flight hours for an AV8B pilot?
General HELLAND. The United States Marine Corps campaign plan has as our goal between 12 and 15 sorties a month. The AV-8B flies approximately 1 to 1.2 hours per sortie. Right now today, based on the last statistics I have, they are flying approximately 12.5 hours per month. So they are right in the target goal for the campaign plan. Their T&R syllabus has the same factor, about 15.2 hours in the T&R plan, the T&R being training and requirements. Not every pilot, as you know sir, is the same. Some pilots require more training; some pilots require less, especially as they get more senior. So it is basically an update in their training and readiness environment.
Based on those numbers I just gave you, we are within the target for the Marine Corps campaign plan. To give you an idea of how it balances out across the fleet of all the aircraft we have in the Marine Corps, our average right now is 13.7 per pilot per aircraft across the spectrum. Why is it kind of low right now? Well, we have a lot of aircraft on deployment. We are moving 128 aircraft back into Iraq, so there is a little bit of a lull in our ability to fly every day all day. But if you go back to the Harrier, and they are getting 13.5 hours per month, that means they are flying basically every other day. Since it is a 1.0, they are getting a takeoff and a landing every other day. I think that is pretty good for a 30-day span.
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Mr. MCKEON. When they are deployed in the area, how often do they fly?
General HELLAND. I will use my own personal experience, sir. When I was a marine expeditionary unit commander, I had Harriers aboard the amphibious ship, and they averaged at the end of our tour of 1 year 20 hours a month. When they were aboard ship, it was a little bit lower. It was about 13.
Mr. MCKEON. So about the same in training as they are in combat situations?
General HELLAND. Yes. Sir, another point of reference, the AV-8s that were deployed to Afghanistan flew 28.8 hours a month, and 50 percent of that time was at night. We are talking about off a runway in Bagram, 90 feet wide, dust, dirt, tracers, mortar rounds, that sort of environment. They are getting their fair share, sir.
Mr. MCKEON. What was the mishap rate there?
General HELLAND. We had the one, if you recall, that they had the nose gear. He landed at night, very strong cross-wind, and his nose gear ran off the tarmac and collapsed.
Mr. MCKEON. I have some other questions. If you would agree, I could submit them to you in writing.
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General HELLAND. Absolutely, sir. I am more than happy to answer.
Mr. MCKEON. I really appreciate that. Thank you very much.
General HELLAND. Thank you, sir.
Mr. MCKEON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
General Helland, when will you have a definitive report on these last five incidents?
General HELLAND. Sir, I cannot answer that because it is out of my control. It has to go through the whole process, the Navy safety center process, and through the legal process. Again, if I were to tell you a date, I would be wrong.
The CHAIRMAN. Are we looking at a number of months, end of the year?
General HELLAND. I would say a number of months. Sir, we want to get it right, and especially with safety. Safety is absolutely important and we want to understand exactly what happened with the aircraft, if it is a human factor or a material problem. We want to make sure we get it right so we are not guessing in the long run.
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The CHAIRMAN. Okay.
The gentleman from Texas?
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, gentlemen, for being here and testifying on the very important issue for all of us.
My first question goes to Mr. Bolkcom. Is it possible to get statistics? And the reason I ask this question is because at times we have a difficulty because we are comparing apples to oranges. Is it possible to get statistics that would give us information on all of the service training and safety programs and their effectiveness, and how they may play into the number of accidents, so that we can get a comparison of what is working and particularly what works in one service and might not work in another one.
Mr. BOLKCOM. My answer is condition on what you mean by ''how effective they are,'' sir. What exactly did you have in mind there? What training? How effective they are in trying to draw a cause and effect relationship between certain training and a reduction in mishaps? Is that what you are getting at?
Mr. REYES. Right, those aspects, yes.
Mr. BOLKCOM. I will tell you, sir, I am sure we could. The services keep very thorough and methodical records on mishaps and training. I am convinced we could come up with a very large data-set. I think the challenge, of course would then be to try to derive some inferences based on the sort of training and reduction in mishaps. It would be more of an analysis than an empirical sort of proof. But I think that certainly could be done.
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Mr. REYES. I think that would be very valuable in order for us to get an opportunity to compare how the different services are doing, again using similar training programs, safety programs, types of aircraft and things like that.
Mr. BOLKCOM. If I may, could I follow up with your staff after the hearing?
Mr. REYES. Sure, absolutely.
Mr. BOLKCOM. I will make sure we focus it appropriately.
Mr. REYES. Absolutely.
If you could, and this may not be possible, but I would be interested in seeing what the wartime impact has on those safety statistics as well.
Mr. BOLKCOM. Can do.
Mr. REYES. Thank you.
For the rest of you gentlemen, can you give us a sense of the role that fatigue and metal stress and age of aircraft in how that affects the training, the safety? Or does it contribute to the statistics on these accident compilations?
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General HESS. Congressman, are you talking about the fatigue in the sense of the pilot?
Mr. REYES. No, no, in the aircraft, because as a number of my colleagues have mentioned, metal fatigue.
General HESS. Metal fatigue.
Mr. REYES. Let me just tell you, from my personal experience when I arrived in Vietnam in March of 1967 and the Marines were still using CH34s, the big radial engine helicopter, when the rest of us were using Hueys, UH1s. Clearly, they were these big lumbering helicopters that were being knocked out of the sky a heck of a lot easier than were the UH1s. That is why I asked that question.
General HESS. Congressman, I have been at the Air Force Safety Center for 18 months and we have had only one structural failure, and that was on an F15 that was on a test hop out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. It was caused by corrosion, water intrusion in the composite there. The reason we have very, very, very few of those kinds of mishaps are because we have aircraft structural integrity boards and things that evaluate our structures very carefully to look for problems like corrosion and fatigue, to make sure that they do not show up in our mishap rates.
So I would not say that we in the Air Force have any indication that fatigue in the sense that we are talking about here is causing the safety mishap rate to rise. In some cases where we go out and do some analysis and take a look at a particular airplane, you may narrow down its operating environment until a modification is complete to take care of a problem that you uncover.
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In the case of the F15, like I described, they put limitations on the top Mach and the amount of G-force that you could pull in those airplanes until they were modified. It was a minor change and did not affect overall operational capability, but we would not let it go to the full extent of the operating envelope that is prescribed in our technical manuals.
Admiral BROOKS. Sir, on the Navy side, I would echo General Hess's comments. I was sitting here as he was answering the question, trying to think back if we had had a recent or even in the past few years anything happening having to do with fatigue life, structural failure on the aircraft. I cannot recall that happening. I can take that and get back to you if we have one, but it does not come out to me as anything that stands out among the other reasons that we have mentioned here today.
General SMITH. From the Army perspective, we have a very good program, of course, for inspecting and paying close attention to the stresses. It is interesting that once we find that, it takes a while to get an aircraft back into the inventory. So in a macro sense, it does impact on training because that aircraft is not available to fly, but it really does not impact on our safety program per se.
Mr. REYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. If the gentleman would yield for a minute. General Hess, you are saying that you have only had one case of fatigue of structural failure, in this case corrosion, in the 18 months you have been working this program?
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General HESS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it the testimony of all of you that you have had no cases of structural failure or fatigue in the last 2 years or so?
Admiral BROOKS. In the Navy's case, sir, I have been there since September, but one does not pop out at me. I could take that and provide that for the record, but it does not stand out in all the reasons we have seen and talked about so far today.
The CHAIRMAN. General Smith?
General SMITH. Sir, I will take that question for the record, but I do know that at depot level we find a lot of metal stress within our helicopters, but I cannot quantify that for you. I will certainly take it for the record.
The CHAIRMAN. So you may have had some crashes as a result of metal fatigue. You are not sure?
General SMITH. None that I am aware of.
The CHAIRMAN. I see that your support staff is shaking their heads. That is okay. It is okay to use support staff. Go ahead. Why don't you get the answer from your backup, from your staff, and we will ask General Helland.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General HELLAND. Sir, I have to agree with Admiral Brooks. I do not recall one in recent history, but I think it is wise that we go back and take a look for you and give you the right answer; go back to Naval Air Systems Command and ask them what they have on record. They will know because like General Hess said, all aircraft are built to a certain standard. They are maintained at a certain standard.
That is why we have the depot level maintenance and we have reoccurring inspections to make sure that should something develop or should we see a trend develop in a structure, that we stop flying. The perfect example was the EA-6B. It had some outer-wing panel problems. As soon as it was discovered, bingo, the aircraft was taken care of and pulled off, and things are being done now to fix it.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. I thank the gentleman from Texas.
Mr. KLINE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for being here.
I think most of you know that this was central to my life, my previous life, so I have been fascinated by the testimony and by the questions and answers. Let me say that I am so happy that we are operating so much more safely today, when my son is an Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot, than we were in all services 30 years ago. I remember a time when I was in a squadron and we had four strike aircraft accidents in the period of time I served in that squadron. It was a CH-53 for those of you who were going through your rolodex.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, it is very common to have a similarly equipped squadron go for years without such an accident. It is a remarkable improvement and I think in large part to understanding the human error and NATOPS or standardized procedures. I am delighted to hear that we are talking about air crew coordination. I am somewhat shocked to hear that the Army is talking about having a commander safety course, when the naval services have had such a thing for over 20 years in my own experience.
So I guess my first appeal to you would be, please share those experiences with each other because it is a shame that we are hearing that the Army is looking at having this course, when it has been out there for a long time.
Let me get to my question. I was struck to hear General Smith talk about the terrific safety record at Fort Rucker in training with helicopters, which are arguably more complex than the T34, which the naval services use. I am looking at the statistics here in front of me that show an 11.42 accident rate for the T34 in the naval training command, which is the highest of the numbers that I am looking at.
Is the Army doing something right that the Navy and Marine Corps are doing wrong in the training command? How are you accounting for this amazing discrepancy in operating and training environment between the T34 and the Army helicopters? I will throw it to you, Admiral Brooks, and then General Helland if you have a comment.
Admiral BROOKS. Sir, I would say, what period are you looking at?
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KLINE. I just have a summary sheet here in front of me that shows the Navy's overall class A mishap rate for the past 10 years is 1.62, and then it shows aircraft with 10-year histories that are notably above the mishap rate. It includes the F14, the H53, near and dear to my heart, the H46, a 3.24, and the T34 at 11.42. I think that is a summary probably provided by the committee staff, and if those numbers are wrong, I apologize.
Admiral BROOKS. Sir, I would like to take that for the record and make sure we have the right information. What I am showing is significantly less than that. I am not saying right or wrong here, but I think we might have some different information. I will say, though, that I think you bring up an excellent point, to look at each service and find out what we are doing right and what we are doing that maybe is not so right.
One of the areas we worked together on is we have a joint service safety council meeting twice a year where we all get together and discuss not only aviation safety, but all the safety areas to find out what kind of best practices one service may be using that another one is not using, so we can learn from each other. If I can, sir, I will take that for the record and get back to you to make sure we have the right data here.
Mr. KLINE. Thank you, admiral, I appreciate that. General Helland, you are probably looking at the same number as the admiral is, so you have something different than I do here. This is just striking that there is an accident rate that high in the T-34, which frankly is not that difficult an air frame and it is a training environment similar, I would think, to the one the Army has, where they have a terrific safety record in their training command. So if our numbers are wrong, I would appreciate getting the correct information from you. I do hope on my larger question is that you are looking at how we are training in the Army versus the Navy and Marine Corps.
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General Helland, did you have a comment?
General HELLAND. No, sir. I agree with Admiral Brooks. We will have to look into this for you and find out if we are suffering from the tyranny of numbers again, and we have not looked at the right data. We owe you that.
Mr. KLINE. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Dr. SNYDER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think I just have one question, but I was going to make a couple of comments, if I might. General Hess, your written statement really brought home what we are talking about here, when you have this statement in there that over the last 10 years, while we have a good safety record, that we have lost 300 pilots, 250 planes, totaling $11 billion. I know there are probably 110 people sitting here, and you put all of those people in a room and just think of not only tremendous human beings, but tremendous training and skill and professionalism that you lose. So I think it is important what you are doing and I appreciate the Chairman holding the hearing.
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A few weeks ago, I went to the Little Rock Air Force Base and they wanted to show me the new J-model simulator. We were pretty rushed out there so they said we are not going to do all the motion with it, but we want to just have you sit in the seat and we will show you the new graphics and all. After about 3 minutes, I had to have them stop it because I was getting motion sick and they did not have the motion thing turned on. I am too wimpy for military training or something. I think it would have been better if we had had the motion, because somehow you were moving.
My point is, that stuff is so real, as you know. It is the kind of thing that technology brings you in terms of training and all. Mr. Chairman, it gives me a chance to bring up this issue that you and I talked about the other day when I asked Secretary Rumsfeld and Dr. Zakheim about the President's budget with regard to basic research.
I am concerned because the president's budget has a cut in basic research dollars. Dr. Zacheim's response was that, no, it is an increase over the President's budget from a year ago, which is true. The problem is that the Congress had plussed-up the number, so the President has proposed a cut in the number.
Basic research is not going to pack on anyone's career in this room. Basic research is that most basic stuff, but you are talking about what magnificent things we will be doing 15 and 20 and 25 years from now in terms of training and the kinds of equipment. You were flying Caribous in Vietnam, General Hess. It is a whole different ballgame flying planes now.
My point is, if we under-fund basic research, which has always been a tremendous source of funds for research in the country, we are holding back the efforts that you all are and your successors will be trying to do in the future in terms of providing safety.
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Another comment I want to make, someone said that flying some of these planes, like fighters, is inherently dangerous. I would think that you all would not accept that. I would say it is inherently challenging. As the Kosovo air campaign showed, there is ability with the discipline and training and air frames and mechanics and the commitment, to do very, very difficult things in a safe manner, in that whole campaign, not losing pilots over Kosovo. So I think as long as we think it is inherently dangerous, it will hold us back from moving ahead with safety.
Another comment I want to make, we had a young woman in the Air Force a week ago or two weeks ago, who died in a single-car crash just fairly close to the Little Rock Air Force Base. The challenges of how do you keep people from being hurt, I suspect General Hess, is that in your ballpark too, auto safety? I do not know what the numbers are, but the loss that we have from these young people in crashes. I know that is something I would appreciate any comments you might have on what you are doing in that effort.
My one specific question is, would you amplify on, General Brooks, I think, you said that 36 percent of the accidents are materiel related. What does that mean? Amplify on what ''materiel'' means. Those are my only comments.
Admiral BROOKS. Yes, sir. ''Material related'' would be when they go through the accident investigation process, they identify a component in the aircraft, say it was a hydraulic component, a flight control surface, something like that that directly contributed to the mishap itself.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General HESS. Actually, if I could talk about your POV question, your vehicle question for just a second. We can probably speak for a long time on this. I will try to be as brief as I can.
First of all, all of us here at this table probably work the motor vehicle problem as hard or harder because each of the services is affected more by the slaughter on our nation's highways than we are by problems that we confront that are significant on the aviation side as well.
Secretary Rumsfeld's DSOC has an Automobile Safety and Prevention Task Force. It is working some very, very knotty issues in terms of how can we do better. In the Air Force, for example, the chief of staff last year gave me almost $700,000 to go back and redo three of our most significant ground safety training programs, starting at basic training and moving forward. We have programs in place to identify at-risk drivers.
On the motorcycle side, we are trying to come up with a campaign plan that would come up with a mentoring kind of squadron at the local level to make sure that these young riders have somebody to emulate other than what they see on the TV and places like that, where they sometimes find themselves thinking they are more bullet-proof than they really are, because we find that in the majority of cases in the four-wheel vehicle kind, we are losing are young airmen out there on the highway at night, usually by themselves, sometimes without a seatbelt on, sometimes after having been drinking.
On the motorcycle side, we are finding that a large portion of the accidents we have are a direct result of lack of proficiency on the machine that they are on, and they are trying to go too fast, and they exceed their experience level. This is a national problem. This is very much like right outside the gate of anybody's hometown, the same statistics will prevail.
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The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. HAYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Smith, first for you. As the representative of Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, contract aviation is very important to flexibility for a whole host of different reasons. We have been going through, and you may be familiar with this, discussions about the inherent difference, if any, between the safety of part 135-certified operators and part-91 operators. Could you comment in general on your thoughts, and anybody else that wanted to comment on that, and then I will be more specific with my follow-up.
If I need to give you a better question, do you think it is okay to operate under proper circumstances under 91 as well as 135? More specifically still, paratroopers, short notice, special missions, work contract carrier under part 91, significantly different from troops being transported from point A to point B, not to jump out of the airplane, but to walk in and to walk out.
General SMITH. I think I understand part of the question, sir, but could you be a little more direct in what you are asking me, please?
Mr. HAYES. Okay. At Fort Bragg, there is a history, 20-some years of very safe operations, with a private contractor who operates under part 91 on a moment's notice. In the past, if you called him up and say, okay, we need to drop these guys at such and such a zone. In all its wisdom, the Pentagon came up and said, okay, we are going to have everything under part 135 no matter what, and that is going to make life safer. Do you agree with that? I am only asking you to take on the Pentagon. Don't stick your neck out. [Laughter.]
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General SMITH. That is why I asked you for a more direct question. My area of expertise, of course, is in the safety realm, and we have not seen anything, of course, that shows that there is a problem with contract safety. But in trying to compare those two, that really is out of the scope of what I do for the Army. I am not trying to skate out on it, but that really is outside my realm.
Mr. HAYES. Okay. Anybody else want to express an opinion on that? I have been trying to get the assets for the folks in uniform available.
Mr. BOLKCOM. Sir, are you speaking of contract aviation? I apologize. I am unfamiliar with the terms you were using. When you say ''contractors,'' are you talking about aviation or ground transportation?
Mr. HAYES. Private contractors furnishing an aircraft for specific missions.
Mr. BOLKCOM. Okay.
Mr. HAYES. In the past, they were under part 91. You may not be familiar with the difference between 91 and 135; 91 is business; 135 is air taxi.
Mr. BOLKCOM. I am not familiar with the specifics of contract aviation, but I will tell you that compared to commercial aviation, writ large, commercial carriers, class A mishaps are 81 times more frequent in the military. Class A mishaps or their equivalent in the commercial world is .032 over the time period we are talking about. In the general civil aviation area, the record is actually very similar to what you will find in the military, or maybe even a little worse, 3.0 to 3.5 class A mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. So I do not know if that would be relevant to contractors, they are par for the course of civilian aviation.
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Mr. HAYES. That probably does not get to the heart of what I am saying. I guess to simplify it, the commander at a post or wherever in my opinion should have the flexibility, because if he did not have the judgment to be the officer that he is, then he should not be there. Again specifically using this incident, it happens in other locations as well. There is a private contractor who is a 91 operator, and he has a long history of safe operation. He provides good service, but now the Pentagon comes back and says, Okay, you have to go through all the routine and the paperwork and the extra expense of becoming a part 135 operation.
In reality, nothing has changed except it is costing him more money. Now, if I can get anybody to stick their neck out and say that does not sound like a great idea; we need to look into that further, that would be appreciated. If you all do not want to go there, I can understand that as well.
General HESS. Mr. Hayes, I will meet you half way. I will look at it further. [Laughter.]
Mr. HAYES. I appreciate that.
The next comment, how much has the airplane availability improved since Mr. Gibbons came to Congress? Do you have a lot less broken airplanes now? We will keep him here then. [Laughter.]
Last question, and this is a general observation. I told him I was going to ask you that, so I got clearance. [Laughter.]
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Years ago, when Mr. Skelton and Mr. Gibbons maybe, and I started flying, you took a weapon and attached it to an airplane. The process is almost completely reversed. You have an airplane and it becomes a systems platform, and your pilot is much more of a systems operator than he is an aviator. He still has to do both, but it has kind of flip-flopped.
Does that have any impact, those of you who are experienced, on the accident rate? Is that a way we can look at improving our safety record, given the fact that if we gave you more money and more gas and more tires, they get more sea-time flying the airplane, as well as the required time to operate all these sophisticated systems. A 21-year-old guy or lady, as smart as they are, with all this equipment, and they are strapping a rocket to their rear end, and away you go. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Admiral BROOKS. Sir, I would offer, I think it speak to the heart of the training issue. To reflect on your comments, if you go back 15 years ago in aviation, we were much more an iron bomb-type outfit, 15 or 20 years ago. If you move it forward, now we are much more of a precision weapons outfit. To me, you have to make sure training keeps pace with that. You do not want to be training like you used to for iron bomb-type deployment. You want to be training for precision weapons, as you mentioned.
It has kind of changed. So I think what we have to do and what we are working hard to do is make sure we have that training piece right, that we are training the kids to go out and do the things you want them to do, giving them the systems that they have today, and evaluate your training from previous periods and have some of that fall out, and then direct it in the right areas.
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Mr. HAYES. Good point. My point is, make sure we give you enough money so the men and women flying get plenty of time flying the airplane, to match the time they have to spend learning and practicing operating those sophisticated systems.
General SMITH. If I could, sir, on the Army's side, with the Apache Longbow, the digital technology is well received by our young generation. If I could just give you the feedback from my son who flies those aircraft, he goes, I don't know why you old guys have a problem with this; I like it. And he really does. He naturally adapts to it. And you are correct, all we need to do is give them the time to fly it.
Mr. HAYES. Thank you all for looking after our folks, and we appreciate your being here.
General HELLAND. The advance of technologies has its good and its bad points. The good points are that those of us who flew 100 years ago, you were using crank radios, literally, with a handle on them that cranked. Today, it is digital. It automatically comes up and the workload in the cockpit is reduced. So therefore the pilots have more time to concentrate on flying, rather than to look around the cockpit to find something to do.
On the other hand, you certainly can get into overload if your systems are too much for you, but if you think about that, the technology is good. It carries over into simulators. Simulators today are absolutely spectacular. They can do everything you can do in the air, you can in a simulator. We, the services, across the board are capitalizing on that. That will help to reduce accidents and improve safety.
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Mr. HAYES. They are great. I do it once a year.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you gentlemen for being here.
The CHAIRMAN. Ms. Davis, if I could ask your indulgence. I missed Mr. Ortiz and he was next in line.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Of course, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ORTIZ. I know he did that on purpose, but that is fine. [Laughter.]
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized, the gentleman from south Texas.
Mr. ORTIZ. I have a very short question. I have a Texas delegation meeting at 12:30, but one of my questions, Admiral Brooks, referring to what my good friend Congressman Kline was referring to, the T34s. How old is the newest version of the T34s?
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Admiral BROOKS. I am sorry, sir.
Mr. ORTIZ. How old is the new version of the T34s?
Admiral BROOKS. How old is the new version?
Mr. ORTIZ. How old is it?
Admiral BROOKS. I would have to get back to you the exact date. I want to say it is probably 20 years.
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Mr. ORTIZ. Do you feel that it is still adequate to be used? I know that it is getting pretty old. According to what I see here, most of the accidents, with all the training that is being conducted, occurs with the T-34s. Is it because of the age of the trainer?
Admiral BROOKS. No, sir. We have not seen that. As with other platforms, what we see is again it is this human error that comes into play where it is controlled flight into terrain, out of control flight. It is that human mistake factor. We do not see anything to tell us that it is the material condition or the age of the aircraft that is the problem.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ORTIZ. Do you have a built-in system to check stress on parts, that is automatically building to check stress?
Admiral BROOKS. Specific aircraft have that system, sir. I would have to take it for the record and get back to you if the T-34 has something like that.
Mr. ORTIZ. We thank you and we thank the panel of witnesses for being with us today. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. MILLER OF FLORIDA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral, if I could also follow up with my colleague Mr. Ortiz and Mr. Kline as well about the T34. You talked about in your testimony the operational risk management program. It included the T34. I would like to know, can you tell me now or provide me with an operational risk management (ORM) review for that aircraft? Or is it easier to provide us a copy of just the management review for the T34? There obviously is some concern with the aircraft, the number that was talked about, 11.12.
I think we all would like to see what is going on with that particular aircraft because of the fact that there is a robust purchase underway now for the T6 through the Air Force. The Navy obviously was supposed to be buying at the same time that the Air Force was, and that buy has been pushed off. I was under the impression that actually the buy would be possibly sped up in this year's budget request. It was not. It continues to be pushed out further.
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Admiral BROOKS. Sir, on your second point, I could get information on the buy. I cannot speak to that, not in my area of expertise. On the mishap rate and the ORM practices for the T34 specifically, what I could do is talk to the chief of naval air training and get that specific piece for you, to feed it back to you, if I can do that, sir.
Mr. MILLER OF FLORIDA. That would be fine.
General HELLAND. If I may, sir. There might be a misunderstanding here. The numbers that are being looked at, and I wish Congressman Kline was still here, but in my report, I report on Marine aircraft, and yes we did have two accidents in the T-34 in the Marine Corps. These aircraft are out at Yuma, Arizona and they do supply support missions. We have a very small number out there, like four, and two accidents when you only have four aircraft that do not fly more than maybe a few hundred hours a year, produces a high accident rate. In reality, it has only been two accidents in over 12 years.
So to say that about the T34, I think again the tyranny of numbers. I think the admiral has a better number on his status sheet that reflects the training command that is down in Pensacola, and not in an anomaly that is out in Yuma, Arizona.
Admiral BROOKS. Yes, sir. When we provided the data, we broke it into Navy and Marine Corps pieces. As the general says, his is a very small population where if you have one or two mishaps, the rate skyrockets. What I show for the Navy side for the vast majority of the T34s I reported, we have had in 10 years 10 mishaps, a lot of flying hours, and an overall mishap rate of .62.
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General HELLAND. I think that is pretty realistic, sir.
Mr. MILLER OF FLORIDA. Thank you. I do represent Naval Air Station Pensacola and Naval Air Station Whiting Field, so we see the T34s in the air quite frequently.
General Helland, you had said, actually it was to General Hess, but General Helland had said that the Marines are talking about bringing the V22 in in 2009. Is that correct, sir?
General HELLAND. No, sir, that is incorrect. I would like to use this opportunity to change it. It is in fact coming in in fiscal year 2007.
Mr. MILLER OF FLORIDA. That kind of answers the question, because General Hess, I was under the impression that the CV22 that is coming in to replace the Pueblos was going to be coming online sometime in the 2008 time frame. Is that still correct?
General HESS. That is my understanding, but let me double-back on that and make sure that is the correct date, sir.
Mr. MILLER OF FLORIDA. Thank you for your testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The gentlelady from San Diego, Ms. Davis?
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and again thank you all for being here.
I appreciate your going back. I know that it can be difficult sometimes in comparing numbers within and among the training commands in terms of the costs and mishap rates, but they are obviously important in understanding those best practices and important information that I am sure you always want to be very specific about those as well.
I wondered if you could just talk a little bit more about the human factors research and development. When we look at that, number one, I think in the scheme of things, do you think that we are investing enough? What grade do you think we should receive in the amount of time and effort that is devoted to that? Within that research, is there enough focus put on the human interactions with flight controls and with cockpit displays? What kind of information do we get from those who are training? What are the surprises? Are we able to follow those and understand the extent to which sometimes there is too much information for single-seat pilots, for example, in the F/A18s and F16s. Is that an issue and how much do we apply to knowing and understanding those particular issues?
Admiral BROOKS. I guess I would answer as far as a grade, we have been doing this for a while at the naval safety center, exploring the human factors issue. But I think it is still early in the process to get a better feel for what we are really looking at, and second, where we need to go. As far as a grade, I would probably give us maybe a B about now because we are engaged in trying to figure out the important issues we have to go after.
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I think the good story here is that recognizing what we have done and working with General Hess as part of the DSOC task force, we have expanded our effort to pull in representatives from the other services, to go to the other professionals both inside the military and outside the military to find out what they are doing in this world; for example, checking with the airline industry to see what type of things they are doing that we could perhaps pick up on.
One area that I think we have learned a great deal on, however, is after an accident or a mishap occurs. I think in the past, we tended to look at it and say, well, it was human error, the pilot made a mistake. Today, what we tend to do is run the thread back all the way from when an incident happened to figure out if there is a supervisory error that perhaps occurred, to run it back and see if there is anything else that may have contributed directly to the end-state.
I think years ago, we probably looked at the end-state and said, well, he made a mistake, when the real question is, why did that individual make that mistake. Was is something that was happening in the command? Was is something in his personal life that was stressing him or her? Is it something that maybe we should have recognized and taken that person off the flight schedule. So I think as we pull this thread, that is where it will take us. I would give us a B for effort now, but we have much work to do.
To comment on your displays and controls, I do not think we are doing that much there right now, but we are probably going to get there as we continue down this path. So I think it is the area that we really have to get a better feel for, because that is what we have to attack if we are going to get our mishap rates down. It is still in my case 83 percent in some form of human error.
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As I was saying before in my testimony, part of that, a small part may be disregard for rules and regulations. You can approach that one way and resolve it, but getting at that human mistake is very, very challenging, but I think we have the right people on the team now, working it jointly with all the services, and we will see where that takes us.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Sometimes it is challenging the basic assumptions about the way that controls are engineered or where they are placed.
Admiral BROOKS. Yes, ma'am. I think, as I said, we will look at those type of things as well as we pursue this effort.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Okay.
General SMITH. If I could add, to Admiral Brooks. From the helicopter perspective, as the margin of error gets more and more narrow, situational awareness of course becomes more critical. That is where we find our pilot errors. So anything we can do to provide better visualization or touch sensory to the Army is a big deal. I give you the example of in OIF, in-theater in Iraq, we had 75 percent of all of our accidents last year were brown-outs, where the pilot was trying to land to the ground and lost situational awareness.
In the program that the Navy is pushing forward with the tactile vest where you can actually feel whether you are moving left or right with that aircraft when you cannot see, is a big deal.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Yes.
General SMITH. Technologies that would provide some way to see through the dust is a big deal. So from the Army's perspective, we are very interested and driving forward in those two areas.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Yes. I noticed in your written statement the operational risk management assessment system. Is that what you are referring to? As I look at that, I think I am wondering why haven't we done more in this area?
General SMITH. That actually is a Web-based technology that we are using to help people do risk assessment, so that the pilot can look at our databases and start off and see something that looks just like his flight profile and compare risk, and then actually find control measures for it and do it in an automated fashion, so it is not really in the aircraft.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Yes.
Admiral BROOKS. The system that I referred to in my statement is a, ORM, first of all, let me say has been around for a long time, for about 10 years. We have been working through it and trying to employ it the right way, trying to use it the right way. The system I referred to is a computerized system where we can take the principles of operation risk management, give them to a squadron commanding officer; he can enter this system, run through what he knows about his command, and come up with a safety climate to kind of trigger him for certain areas he should focus on more than others. So it is a computerized system to apply ORM principles.
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Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Thank you.
Yes, go ahead.
General HELLAND. We are not stopping there, though. Those are just tools that can be used to help the squadron commanders and to help the pilots make a determination whether or not their flights are good to go, and to fly. Every Marine squadron that deploys takes a flight surgeon with them, physically in the squadron, physically part of the squadron. They become like part of the family, so if he sees or she sees anything going on that is not in good keeping and not in good standing with safety, they can stop the chain of events. I think that is very proactive. In fact, anyone whether he is Lance Corporal Helland or Private Helland or Sergeant Helland sees anything in the mishap chain that he does not like, he can break it and stop it. So we are being very proactive in that regard with human factors.
Ms. DAVIS OF CALIFORNIA. Yes. Okay, thank you. I appreciate that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentlelady.
Let me ask just a few questions here before we close. General Helland, I am looking at the class A mishap rate in 2001 for AV-8B at 3.17. Then it went to 7.12 in 2002, and 6.57 in 2003. What do you think happened here?
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General HELLAND. I think it is a combination of flight time and aggressive environment. I do not have them listed in front of me, but I think about the pilot that had 69 flight hours total in model, and he was out doing ACM, which is air combat maneuvering.
The CHAIRMAN. Are you saying they did not have enough flight time?
General HELLAND. No, sir. I cannot make that judgment personally. I am just saying that sets an example that perhaps more flight time would have helped. Maybe he personally got ahead, behind, or the aircraft got away from him. It is like a guy driving his car down the roadway way too fast and he does not see black ice. As soon as he gets on top of it, he goes, oops, I am here and he punches out or he bang into the side of the road.
I am thinking about the gentleman that did a controlled landing to the back of the amphibious ship and landed in water, just landed in the water. I cannot answer why he did that. So I do not know how to answer your question about what I think the problems are. The flight time was down during that time frame, the number of hours flown, so the rate is high, but that is the best I can do for you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Why don't you walk through the history of the AV-8B, because we had a hearing on this several years ago when the AV-8B rates were up high. As I recall, at that point we had crashed roughly one-third of the fleet. What percentage is it right now?
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General HELLAND. Sir, I do not have that number. I will have to take that for the record and get back to you.
[The information referred to can be viewed in the hard copy.]
General HELLAND. We first started out with AV8 program with the AV8A, as you recall. The AV8A has been out of the Marine Corps inventory now for 17 years, so we are not flying the AV8 anymore. If you take a look at the AV8A accident rate, it was not declining. It was rising. If you take a look at the AV8B accident rate from when it first came into the Marine Corps, it has in fact been on the decline the whole time.
The CHAIRMAN. It has not been on the decline for the last couple of years, because it went back up from 3.17 to 7 and then almost 7.
General HELLAND. Yes, sir. Again, the reduction in flight hours.
The CHAIRMAN. But that is based on flight hours. That is 3.17 per 100,000 hours.
General HELLAND. 100,000 hours, yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. So those are not gross numbers. That is a rate. The rate went up.
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General HELLAND. Yes, sir. And that was one accident, one single accident that year that had a 3.17. The next year, we had three accidents, and that is 7.12.
The big thing we have done in the AV-8 program, and I think that is important, is in the year 2000 we did that tremendous stand-down and we took a look at the aircraft itself and we fixed the engine, and we did exceptional programmatics with it to make sure that it was ready to go.
The CHAIRMAN. That is when Jim Jones went over to basically meet with Rolls Royce and told them that they were going to have to do a re-scrub on this engine. Is that right?
General HELLAND. To my understanding, sir. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. As I recall, the testimony was that following that renewed effort to fix the engine problems, your rates, at least that were attributable to engine problems, went down.
General HELLAND. Yes, sir. We also did a program called HARP where we took the experts from the civilian community, from the contractors, and we all got together and we talked about a number of initiatives that we could do to improve the performance of the aircraft and reduce the mishap rate. They came up with something like, I am guessing now, about 78 to 80 different items that had to be done. We invested about $175 million in the program, and that really brought us some good benefits back. We still have that process ongoing today, where we take the mature knowledgeable engineers and technicians, and keep them around at the squadron level to reinforce what needs to be done on the airplane.
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The CHAIRMAN. Have you made any requests for safety mods on the AV8B that have not been supported, that have gone unfunded?
General HELLAND. Not to my personal knowledge, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Could you check on that?
General HELLAND. Yes, sir, I will. If it is in operational safety improvement and OSIP or if it is an engineering change that has to do with safety, and I would ask Admiral Brooks to comment on it, that receives priority from Naval Air Systems Command on any weapons system or airplane that we fly.
The CHAIRMAN. I understand that it receives priority. Are they fully funded? Because there are a lot of things that are important that because of budget constraints over the last several years, we have not funded. When you say ''receives priority,'' does that mean that all your requests have been fully funded?
General HELLAND. I do not have the programmatics with me here today, sir. I will take that for the record and get back to you, if that is permissible.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Tell me how the AV-8B has worked out in the Afghanistan-Iraq theaters.
General HELLAND. They have done superbly. I can give you some actual numbers of flight time and performance. We will start with Afghanistan first. In Afghanistan, they flew 1,686 sorties for 5,936 hours. They maintained a mission readiness of 83 percent. As I mentioned before, the pilots are receiving 28 hours per month. Fifty percent of that time was at night. I picked on Afghanistan because is it a very extreme environment. They start out at one-mile high, 5,000 feet above sea level. They deal with high winds. They are flying at night. They have to deal with tracers, mortar rounds and all the harsh environment that is going on around them. The only incident we had was the nose gear landing, and we do not have any combat losses or loss of life in Afghanistan.
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Moving on to Operation Iraqi Freedom, the AV8 maintained the operational mission capable rate of 79.3 percent, which by the way is over 3 percent higher than the CNO's requirement. It flew 2,186 sorties for 3,026 hours. It performed all the missions. It landed on roads; it landed on forward operating bases; it flew from the amphibious ships. Sixty of the 76 air frames were located on amphibious ships, not aircraft carriers, sir, but amphibs, and the other 16 were ashore flying from roads and forward operating bases. Again, as in Operation Enduring Freedom, there were no combat losses in Operation Iraqi Freedom for the AV8B.
The CHAIRMAN. General, do you have any personal conclusions that you have drawn with respect to the increased mishap rate when it went up from three to ride at seven for two years?
General HELLAND. No, sir, not personally.
The CHAIRMAN. What do you think? Do you think that it is still a good bird, still worthwhile?
General HELLAND. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Still safe from your perspective?
General HELLAND. Yes, sir. With continued attention to detail, with continued training, with level readiness that we keep the aircraft at its best possible standard, and we continue on with the education of the pilots and the crew and the maintenance. It is a supportable aircraft. It brings incredibly unique capabilities to the Marine Corps.
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The fact that it is forward-deployed with the Marines, and if you think of it, sir, as a weapons system and its job is to provide combat support to the main focus of effort, which is the ground combat marine out there, living on the ground, fighting out of the foxhole, moving and fighting and communicating. He has the capability, or looks over his shoulder, and he sees the air wing of the Marine Corps standing right behind him, that is a tremendous plus for what he does. It can drop precision munitions at night, day, all weather, and tremendous capability that we look forward to improving when the Joint Strike Fighter comes in.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me ask a couple of other questions here about the comparison of our accident rate, Mr. Bolkcom, with the accident rate of foreign militaries, foreign aviation programs. Have you ever taken a look at that?
Mr. BOLKCOM. Sir, I have.
The CHAIRMAN. How do we stack up?
Mr. BOLKCOM. I can only really give you a qualitative assessment. Unfortunately, there is no standardization between countries in how they report and record keep. So Belgium, Germany, France, whomever, quantify their information differently and call class A something different. So there is really no empirical comparison that can be made.
But my general sense is that we do quite well, probably on par, if not better, than a lot of our NATO allies. Again, that is a qualitative assessment, not anything empirical.
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The CHAIRMAN. Okay. You heard earlier questions. General Helland was asked why his rates seemed to be higher, especially in certain aircraft. The answer was that you can get a lot better rates if you fly big aircraft for long periods of time at 40,000 feet instead of having to get down and hug the ground on relatively short missions, which translates into a higher mishap per hour flown rate. Do you basically agree with that? Do you see any variance between the services that requires addressing?
Mr. BOLKCOM. I do agree in principle. I think that statistics can be useful, but they are certainly only part of the story. I think we rely a lot on the class A as our yard stick, but as other people mentioned, there are many other factors to consider, like fatalities and the rate of fatalities and the like. Clearly, the services operate differently. They focus and emphasize different missions. The Air Force does have 600 airplanes that are multi-engine tankers that do fly more benign flight profiles. You cannot ignore that.
I will say that I think most of the services would agree that a culture change over time, leadership over time has really made the biggest difference in our historical improvement. The DSB found that as well, that leadership is key. So I would not want to suggest that leadership is superior in one or deficient in another, but because of that you cannot ignore cultural, organizational and leadership issues as well.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Incidentally, General Helland, before we leave AV-8B, too, when you are undertaking this analysis on these last five mishaps, and you obviously do not have an answer yet on those. Unlike a couple of our members who are especially interested in this, perhaps headed up by Mr. McKeon, to at least engage with our staff with your investigative team, and have a chance to take a look at the present state of affairs, the present state of the investigation, and where it is going, without coming to any conclusion, but at least to see how the process has progressed at this point. Is that something you folks can accommodate?
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General HELLAND. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. We will have them interact with you. Mr. McKeon will contact you here shortly. We will work on that.
General Hess, you mentioned that 70 percent of Air Force passenger aircraft have the so-called traffic collision avoidance system. All commercial aircraft, as I understand it, have had this system since 1993. Is there any reason for not having the other 30 percent of our folks hooked up?
General HESS. The only reason I can give you, sir, is that based on the funding profiles that we have to put the systems in the airplane, we are kind of flagging the fight here by comparison to commercial industries out there. We are also working on a time line to have it done by 2005. I cannot tell whether or not the current stream of funding will make that complete by then, but we are certainly moving as quickly as we can to have some sort of that technology on all of our troop-and passenger-carrying airplanes as soon as we can possibly get it there.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. We heard earlier about the prioritization that is given to safety-related funding. With respect to this system, that prioritization has not been given?
General HESS. It has a priority, sir. I do not know, to go back and answer the question, has it been fully funded. I cannot tell you that answer to that.
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The CHAIRMAN. It looks like it hasn't, if only 70 percent are hooked up at this point, unless we have a pretty slow rate of acquisition.
General HESS. I will get the details for you, if you will approve me to do that.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. You talked about the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program, and we are trying to address fatigue damage. The testimony I take from each of you is that there has been a minimum of fatigue-related incidents in recent years. Now, we are operating these aircraft at an unprecedented age level.
If you look at tankers, look at bombers, for example, the B-52s, but I think two-thirds of our naval fighter aircraft now are over 15 years old. I think your Army helicopters average out at about 18.6 years; lots of old stuff out there. Is the risk of material failure much higher than you think it was 15 years ago?
General HELLAND. Sir, if I may. I think that our inspection process and the increasing technology that is available to organizations like Naval Air Systems Command and to the depots to find any type of hint or something that is going on with an air frame is tremendously better than it was 15 years ago. We have ultra-sound systems and inspection systems today that we never even thought were available.
The CHAIRMAN. So you think the warning system for material failure is probably better than it has ever been?
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General HELLAND. Yes, sir. I would have to say that because of the advancement in technology.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Anybody disagree with that?
Admiral BROOKS. I would tend to disagree. I would add an additional comment that we also pursue it differently now. As I mentioned before, Naval Air Systems Command stood up an aging aircraft team to watch those type of things. So they have the technology, but they also have the commitment and the realization that with older air frames you have to watch stress on the aircraft. You have to monitor fatigue life very closely. So I think we do a much better job today, because some of the aircraft are a little bit older.
General SMITH. Sir, for the Army, as we bring aircraft back from theater, of course, the recap program where we try to bring the aircraft back to pre-war state. From a safety perspective, we think that that is critical, so that we can maximize the inspection process to find out really what that means to us with an older aircraft.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. General Hess, you had mentioned that national and international airlines have embraced flight operations quality assurance programs for years, but the Air Force is still validating its feasibility. How long are you going to validate?
General HESS. We are executing a contract probably as I speak here, Mr. Chairman.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. That is real good. [Laughter.]
General HESS. But seriously, the flight operations quality assurance thing has been funded at about a $9 billion level so we can go out and do some very constructive tests to try to see what information we can pull out of flight data recorders that will give us some preemptive look at mishaps that could be avoided. We are testing.
In the C17, we have a T6 program ongoing. We are going to target an F16 unit. We have not identified that yet. It will either be with Air Combat Command or Air Education and Training Command, as well as using the DB fleet at Andrews to try to look at the amount of information we can get and how we can best use it to do mishap prevention.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. General Hess, you are head of the Aviation Safety Improvements Task Force.
General HESS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you made any requests for funding for systems that have not been fulfilled?
General HESS. No, sir. We are not at that stage yet. We are just in the infancy of putting our organization together. I fully expect that one of my responsibilities to Dr. Chu and to the Department is to identify those areas where we believe that there are technology or improvements that require funding.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Let me ask, for all of you, one other question with respect to old versus new. We have asked the question in several different ways, would having new platforms depress the accident rate. The answer has been generally no, because it looks like we are maintaining pretty well, even with the older equipment.
Let me ask it another way. You have a lot of new safety-enhancing systems like the ground proximity warning systems, terrain avoidance systems, moving map displays, things like that that would seem to enhance safety. So if you asked the question the other way, that is, without saying that old systems are not necessarily more dangerous, isn't it true that systems with these new safety devices, aren't they safer than the systems that do not have them? It is another way of asking the question. Don't these new systems make aircraft safer, and if we had them fully deployed, wouldn't we have a lower accident rate?
Mr. BOLKCOM. If I may start out, sir, I would say that I would expect these systems to contribute more to safety. My perspective is that heightened awareness, organizational attention to safety, implementing procedures and processes like ORM really have the big payoff and will continue to.
The CHAIRMAN. But that is what this does. You get heightened awareness from a ground proximity warning system, right?
Mr. BOLKCOM. Agreed.
The CHAIRMAN. I presume that tells you when the ground is getting close. Right?
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Mr. BOLKCOM. Yes, sir. Agreed.
The CHAIRMAN. It is called heightened awareness.
Mr. BOLKCOM. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. So wouldn't you say that this proposition offered up is true? If we had these systems in place, we would have lower accident rates, generally.
Mr. BOLKCOM. I would hope so. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. But do you think that would follow?
Mr. BOLKCOM. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. General Hess, what do you think?
General HESS. I would agree with you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. General Brooks.
Admiral BROOKS. Sir, I would agree with you, that they will contribute, but they are part of the solution. I will give you an example. At times we have pilots who make gear-up landings. When they make those gear-up landings, sometimes they have lights going off to tell them their gear is up, and they have a voice going off telling them their gear is up, but it happens. So it contributes. It can certainly make things better, but it is one big piece. It is leadership, it is the technology, it is all those things combined.
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The CHAIRMAN. Okay. General Helland?
General HELLAND. Sir, I wholeheartedly agree. It is one of the tools in the kit bag that needs to be applied to safety across the spectrum. If you can do anything to enhance a weapons system to make it more safe, it should be done.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. But in your estimation, General Helland, are there any systems out there that are safety-enhancing that could be applied to the AV-8B program, that we have not stuck on those platforms?
General HELLAND. Sir, I will have to research that for you.
The CHAIRMAN. Does anything come to mind that you would look at?
General HELLAND. Sir, it has a radar. It has a flare. It has an altitude warning system in it. I would have to go back and ask the pros that know more about the aircraft system itself and see what is doable and what is in the realm of the possible, and would bring the best benefit for the investment.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. If you could take a look at that and maybe get back to us for the record, if there are other systems out there that would enhance the AV-8B's safety, that would be really good.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General Smith, any comment on that?
General SMITH. Sir, I totally agree with you. I think that any technologies that help in terms of situational awareness would be very helpful in the future, and those things again specifically for us that had to do with as you get closer to the ground, landing, being able to support a better situational awareness.
The CHAIRMAN. Are these systems, the ground warning systems and terrain avoidance systems, are those considered to be safety-related programs, or are they considered to be performance-related programs? You mentioned there is a priority on safety-related programs. I guess my question is, I am trying to figure out whether they are getting the kind of funds they need and I wonder if that is a function of categorization. If we called them safety programs, would we be able to get them funded? You have all testified they would make the plane safer. How are they categorized?
Admiral BROOKS. I believe they are generally categorized as safety-related programs. I think for the most part they are pursued and they are funded, but there are some initiatives out there that we go after. This flight operations quality assurance is a good example. We need to look at it and make sure it can help us in the areas where we need the help. So I think they are funded and they are categorized as safety-related.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. If they are categorized as safety-related, then they should be funded with priority. Wouldn't you agree with that?
Admiral BROOKS. Yes, sir, and I believe they are.
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The CHAIRMAN. Okay.
General SMITH. For example, in the Army with the flight data recorders, we have a $4.3 million program at Fort Rucker right now that is testing the use of that or the safety aspect of it. But of course, there are a lot of offshoots from maintenance and other areas that will draw from it.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Let me see here, for Admiral Brooks, you mentioned these safety surveys in your opening statement. Is that a Navy-only program? Is that a USMC program as well?
Admiral BROOKS. It is both. The Navy and Marine Corps both conduct safety surveys where we send a team from the Naval Safety Center comprised of approximately 10 to 12 individuals who will go into a squadron in aviation command. They will go down in the maintenance department, the operations area. They will look across the entire breadth of the command to see what kind of practices are there. Most importantly, it is kind of good and bad, but to take the good lessons and share them with other commands. So it is a very effective program for both the Navy and Marine Corps.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Do you see a relationship between reducing the mishap rate and your Web-enabling program?
Admiral BROOKS. Yes, sir, I do. I see it directly contributing because it puts the information in the hands of the users. Today, we run the database at the Naval Safety Center that collects the information from both the Navy and Marine Corps. Where we are going with the Web-enabling program is allowing the users out in the fleet to enter data directly into the program, but also call up information where they can generate reports. They can see how they compare to other outfits. They can also see what kind of lessons learned that out there that they want to put into play.
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The CHAIRMAN. Okay. General Helland, can you give us any more information about the Crew Resource Management Program? And why are you reexamining it at this time? Is there some problem with that program?
General HELLAND. No, sir. We are trying to enhance it, make it better than it actually is, take a look at the crews that we put on the aircraft, make sure that they are the right crews with the right, if I may use the word, temperament or that they have the right capabilities, and they are all flyers, so you do not have someone flying that is not supposed to be here. The purpose of it is exactly what we are talking about today, to enhance our awareness of safety, both from the leadership angle, readiness, and from training.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Can you say that you think there is total cooperation and exchange and support between the Navy and the Marine Corps with respect to aviation safety? Are you guys working hand-in-glove?
General HELLAND. I will be first, sir. In one word, absolutely. We work very closely with the Naval Safety Center, and the Naval Safety Center works very closely with us. We do everything together.
Sir, if I may add, I would like to make a comment about the United States Army. As we were getting ready to put forces back into Iraq
The CHAIRMAN. It is always dangerous when Marines want to comment about the Army. [Laughter.]
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General HELLAND. Sir, they have been tremendous. They really have. We went through a very large training exercise in Yuma, Arizona. We used the lessons learned provided by the Army and they have been very open with us, very helpful in providing information on what to do and what not to do, lessons learned. It has been a tremendous learning experience for our pilots and our crews. It has been very, very helpful and very healthy for us.
The CHAIRMAN. Good. Has that been focused on the Marine replacement of the 82nd that is going to take place in Western Iraq?
General HELLAND. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I was over there a couple of days ago with the 82nd and the 4th, and it looked to me like we are working hard to make sure we have a good ride-along program and understanding of those AOs, because those are dangerous areas of operation as we make this replacement. From your perspective, the same thing is happening in aviation.
General HELLAND. Yes, sir, very much so.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay, good. That is really important to us.
General Smith, obviously a lot of Army choppers have aged as the RAH-66 Comanche has been stretched out. The Army and the White House, I understand, are thinking about whether to proceed with Comanche. Have you developed any contingency plans to ensure that the Army helicopters remain safe if Comanche is canceled? I get questions like that all the time, too. [Laughter.]
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General SMITH. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. If you get kicked out by the voters, what will you do? [Laughter.]
I know it is a tough question, but on the other hand you have to be thinking about that.
General SMITH. I think our entire aviation community is certainly looking at that, sir, but at this point it is clearly out of my area of expertise, and I do not have the insights into what senior Army leadership is doing with it. As we were talking about earlier in terms of maintaining what we have, and we put a lot of energy into that. I am very comfortable that the Army is paying close attention to our current fleet and trying to make sure that it is safe.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay. So the record will reflect that General Smith did say that the Comanche will be canceled, but he feels comfortable with the decision. [Laughter.]
Of course, it will not reflect that, General.
General, tell us a little bit about the accident reporting automation system and whether other services can access Army mishap information through it.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General SMITH. Yes, sir. We are very excited about that. About six months ago when I sat down with the Army G3, we started looking at where were we broken, basically. We found out that with young people, that we could not add experience to their time in the military, but we could certainly add knowledge. We tried to fill that gap with knowledge and we have been doing that through Web-based technology, and putting a lot of energy into it. This has been great team sport between everyone at this table. We are offering back and forth essentially even without cost; here is what we are doing, why don't you look at it, and if you like it, then we will try to adapt it.
We had several thousand hits. We tried it with the privately owned vehicles first, because it was easiest, and put it on the Web. It had several thousand hits within a week, where young soldiers were using it. So we are seeing that this digital technical generation likes it. Now again we are doing that for air, ground and privately owned vehicles, and we are sharing it to the services. In fact, I think the Marine Corps in particular and the Navy as well are taking us up on using it.
The CHAIRMAN. Just one last question, gentlemen. It was 10 or 15 years ago that a class A mishap was one that caused $1 million worth of damage. That was classification. Today, it is still $1 million. So the implication is that the same physical damage to an aircraft 15 years ago, because of inflation, because it ruins a certain amount of parts and requires a certain amount of repair, the same accident that would no be classified as a class A mishap 15 years ago, today now that parts are a lot more expensive and aircraft are a lot more expensive, would be classified. Are we artificially raising the class A rate because we have not adjusted for inflation? Do you see what I am saying?
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BOLKCOM. I think I do, sir, if you do not mind me starting off. I understand there is some logic to making sure the threshold for class A adjusts for inflation over time. In fact, OSD did double the threshold for class A mishaps in 1989. I would just say my one regret is that when we did that, we did not change what we called mishaps. I think from a pure research perspective, when you double the threshold, you are really changing what a class A mishap is.
So it is really false today in 2004 to say, well, in 1988 our class A mishap rate was thus, and in 1992 it was this. They are really two different things now. We have doubled the threshold. So my one point would be, we should have changed the classification from class A, B, C and D, to something like class one, two, three and four, to make sure that we don't try to compare these apples and oranges as apples and apples. If we did change it, we should do that today. Call it class I, class II, or something like that.
The CHAIRMAN. General Hess?
General HESS. If I could add to what Mr. Bolkcom has said, anytime you get into this business and you try to compare statistics across decades or between services, you get into a little bit of a difficult situation. As far as the inflation is concerned, I think the difference is about $1 million to $1.3 million in that particular range there.
Philosophically when you ask yourself what happens if you change the numbers of what would cost a class A or a class I or whatever you re-term it to be, certain things happen inside a military service when you have what is today called a class A mishap with $1 million, a fatality or disability, or a destroyed airplane. That is, in the Air Force the convening authority is a four-star officer. He marshals significant resources to find out what happened and why it happened, and put prevention measures into place. Whereas a class B mishap, for example, the convening authority has gone down to the number Air Force level, so it gets a little bit less. The reviews are a little bit less stringent. The four-star probably does not even see them because of the pure volume of the numbers that happen there.
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So a significant weight would then be showing up on the class B mishaps if you were to move the threshold, say, to $2 million. The court of review would have to be changed. Not that that could not be done, but then you have so many that you have to take a look at. The $1 million still does not get us a tremendous number that we look at in any particular year. I think we are looking at the right ones for that significant level of review, without changing.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay.
Admiral BROOKS. I would agree. I think the important part of this is the process that we go through, and we all have measures in play today to go after the effects and the reasons behind all the mishaps. The process is what drives that, and I think that is a good process today.
The CHAIRMAN. Okay.
General HELLAND. Sir, I will leave it to the professionals, the admirals and the generals that work in the safety business every single day and are focused on what they do as far as their comment is. From an operator standpoint of view, as a peer operator, I say yes, I would love to raise the threshold, but maybe that is not the right thing to do right now because we will not get the emphasis necessary to fix everything as we go along. That is just kind of a common sense approach.
General SMITH. Sir, we take a little bit different approach. At the Safety Center, I look at class As through Cs and look for trend analysis to decide what the Army will take a look at, what we send our centralized accident investigation teams out to do. That seems to be more helpful. So it does not bother me that the threshold is at $1 million because we take a little broader perspective on that. Other than that, I basically agree with the rest of the panel.
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The CHAIRMAN. Okay. Gentlemen, thank you very much, and thanks for being before us at this important hearing today. General Helland, we will engage with this task force headed by Mr. McKeon, just to work with you on the AV-8B mishaps.
Thanks a lot gentlemen. We may have more questions for the record, so we may send you some more questions. We look forward to working closely with you. Obviously, you have a lot of stress on equipment and people in the theaters we are operating in. This is a very important issue for us, but we appreciate your efforts and hope that we can come close to meeting the Secretary's goal here, this target that he has set for you for safety. We appreciate your being here. We will work with you in the future.
Without further ado, the hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:20 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]