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GAO report: human error behind most National Guard helicopter crashes

A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter flies in exercises in the Philippines.{ } (Photo by Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter flies in exercises in the Philippines. (Photo by Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The Defense Department plans to update safety guidance following a critical report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office looking into the last decade of National Guard helicopter crashes that finds human error is behind most of them.

Nine were killed when two black hawks crashed near Fort Campbell, Kentucky in March.

READ: Probe of deadly Black Hawk crash underway in Kentucky

In February, another black hawk crashed near Huntsville, Alabama killing two more.

READ: Tennessee National Guard identifies 2 pilots killed in Alabama helicopter crash Wednesday

While those crashes are still under investigation, the GAO report looked at 298 Army and Air National Guard helicopter crashes from 2012 to 2021 that killed a total of 28.

The most serious, approximately 45, non-combat helicopter accidents fluctuated over time and were mainly due to human errors such as not following training standards, overconfidence, poor communication, and lack of awareness, according to GAO’s analysis of Department of Defense data.

The report pointed to issues with workload and staffing hurt the ability for safety officers to do their job.

They're jobs were complicated by other duties as well.

The GAO report says pilot inexperience also played a factor.

The Army and Air National Guard established flying hour goals, but pilots did not fly enough on average to meet them due to lack of aircrew availability, maintenance issues, and simulator access, according to the report.

You can read the full report from the GAO here.

GAO is making 8 recommendations to the Army and Air Force, including that they take steps to ensure that their

National Guard helicopter units continuously evaluate and update risk management worksheets and develop comprehensive strategies to address challenges that have hindered National Guard helicopter pilot training.

The report indicates the DOD generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

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