The Army’s top officer has ordered all of its aircraft to be grounded after a series of helicopter crashes, with the latest claiming three lives.
The stand-down order was issued Friday by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, one day after two helicopters collided in Alaska during a training flight.
All aviation units, including those overseas, have been directed to inspect all aircraft for possible mechanical malfunctions and to review protocol regarding pilot safety and training.
“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, according to Military.com.
“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.”
An Army official told Military.com that the stand-down order can only be disregarded by a two-star general or an officer of a higher rank, with regard to medical emergencies that may require an air evacuation.
Throughout the stand-down, a series of safety briefings will be held by senior officers and generals, according to Military.com.
The order requires all active-duty units to complete safety training by May 5, with Army National Guard having until May 31. All flights will resume after the stand-down.
The announcement comes after 14 soldiers have died and three others have been injured in helicopter crashes this year alone.
The incidents have involved Black Hawk and Apache helicopter models.
Each helicopter was carrying two people. Two died at the scene, one died on the way to the hospital, and one was hospitalized.
A similar incident occurred in Kentucky on March 29, resulting in one of the Army’s most deadly training accidents.
The two Black Hawk helicopters were conducting a nighttime training exercise when they crashed into a field, killing all nine involved.
One of the helicopters had been carrying five people while the other was carrying four, according to the Times.
In a third incident, that took place on Feb. 15 and was captured on camera, two members of the Tennessee National Guard died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Alabama as they were headed toward the Huntsville Executive Airport.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the crashes.
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