A rash of recent accidents, including the fiery and deadly crash of the last B-52 at Fairchild Air Force Base, is forcing the Air Force to review the way safety is stressed and accidents are investigated.
Air Force Chief of Staff Ronald R. Fogleman is convening a fourman review panel in response to complaints that the service has an unusually poor record on flight safety investigations.
Alan Diehl, the Air Force’s former top safety official, recently told Defense Secretary William Perry and congressional leaders the record is poor because officers want to avoid embarrassment and hide culpability.
Fogleman also said he was prompted to act in light of the fact that the Air Force has had 18 “Class A” accidents since Jan. 1, including 10 in the past two months.
An accident is “Class A” if it results in a death or either destroys the aircraft or results in $1 million or more in repairs.
“I believe it’s time to conduct a major, independent review,” Fogleman said in a written statement.
Diehl’s list of accidents with botched investigations was longer.
In a letter released last month, the safety expert named 30 cases of botched safety investigations by “incompetents, charlatans and sycophants.”
Chief among those accidents cited by Diehl was the B-52 crash last June 24 at Fairchild that occurred during a practice for an air show. The pilot of the plane, Lt. Col. Arthur “Bud” Holland, had a record of flying dangerous maneuvers in air shows but was never formally reprimanded by his supervisors or grounded for his actions.
National press accounts of the Diehl report have used the Fairchild crash to highlight his allegations.
Diehl contends the rate of major Air Force mishaps has increased by more than 30 percent over the past three years while the other services have recorded substantial declines in major accidents over that period.
Fogleman said the four-man review panel would begin work before the end of the month and produce a report to Congress “and other agencies as necessary” within 60 days of its first meeting. It will have unrestricted access to all safety investigations reports, archives and other information, Fogleman said.
Heading the review panel will be retired Navy Vice Adm. Donald D. Engen, who once was a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and is a former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SAFETY REVIEW PANEL Members of the Air Force review panel are: Donald D. Engen, a retired Navy Vice Admiral who once was a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and is a former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. He will lead the panel. Hans Mark, a former Air Force secretary who is a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. Robert C. Oaks, a retired Air Force general who is vice president of safety and regulatory compliance for USAir. Joel T. Hall, a retired Air Force brigadier general and former Air Force director of aerospace safety.