Army leadership on Friday ordered an aviation stand-down after two fatal helicopter crashes, the most recent of which killed three soldiers and injured a fourth in Alaska on Thursday.
The order by Army Chief of Staff James McConville grounds all Army aviators except those on critical missions until they do training, the Army said in a statement.
“The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” McConville said in a statement.
Twelve soldiers have been killed in helicopter crashes since March.
On Thursday, three soldiers died and a fourth was injured after two Apache helicopters collided in mid-air in Alaska and crashed, the 11th Airborne Division said. They were returning to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks at the time.
On March 29, nine soldiers died when the two Black Hawk helicopters they were in crashed in Kentucky, west of Fort Campbell.
Both incidents involved training exercises.
“During this stand down, we will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission,” McConville said in the statement.
The Army said that it will review "risk approval/risk management process," aircraft maintenance training, how flight briefings are done and flight planning, aimed at reducing risks, among other issues.
The cause of Thursday’s crash in Alaska is under investigation, and the names of the soldiers who were killed have not yet been released.
They were from the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment based at Fort Wainwright.
The crash happened near Healy, a community around 80 miles southwest of the military base in Fairbanks, the military has said.