VIRGINIA BEACH -- Following a recent uptick in crashes, the Navy's "Air Boss" has ordered squadrons to take a "tactical pause for safety."
Vice Admiral David Buss, Commander Naval Air Forces, directed squadron commanding officers last Friday to briefly stop flying to review safety procedures. The Navy tells13 News Now that all deployed, in-theater units have been told to conduct the same training "when practical."
The instructions come as the Navy grapples with an increase in Class A mishaps-- aviation accidents that result in $2 million in damages, a fatality or permanent disability.
In 2008, there were 14 Class A mishaps and last year there were four. Now, through the first seven months of this fiscal year, there have been ten Class A mishaps. In Hampton Roads, there were two within a week of each other.
In first incident, a MH-53 E Sea Dragon helicopter crashed in the Atlantic, killing three sailors. Seven days later, a F/A-18E Super Hornet also went down in the ocean, sending the pilot to the hospital in critical condition.
Former Navy pilots say a pause of this nature is a good idea.
"Just to go back and look at the procedures and policies they have," said retired Captain Jim Joyner.
Added retired Rear Admiral Fred Metz, "This a good opportunity for them to close the door a little bit, not only for the people flying but also the maintenance people, and let's just talk about it."
To put things in perspective, Naval aviation is much safer than it was years ago. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Navy routinely experienced Class A Mishap rates in excess of 1,900 year.