In a joint message this week, Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander, Naval Surface Forces and Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, III, commander, Commander, Naval Air Forces promulgated operational safety and risk mitigation expectations for air-capable ships during flight deck operations.
The message follows completion of a memo from the Naval Safety Center detailing hazards to rotary-wing aircraft in the past five years and directly addressing concerns regarding past mishaps involving helicopter operations aboard low freeboard ships, specifically guided-missile destroyers.
“There is nothing short of actual combat operations that allow us to put any of our shipmates in danger. Going to sea in ships is inherently dangerous, and by extension, integrated air operations pose certain risks – we must not increase that danger by failing to identify to the chain of command possible safety issues,” said Brown.
Guidance provided to commanding officers emphasizes building good operational habits through sustained training of personnel in focused and controlled environments prior to conducting full-speed operations, to include tight coordination between ship and aviation teams that incorporate all training resources.
As well, the message gives special prominence to understanding the ship’s maneuvering limits and recommendations with helicopters on deck and the need to mitigate risk real time by stressing that commanding officers must ensure all watch standers and aircrew understand the risks when maneuvers are planned with personnel or aircraft on the flight deck.
Addressing the men and women impacted by this message, the two vice admirals closed with, “We are confident each one of you completely understand and concur with the importance of safely operating helicopters at sea and we thank you for your teams’ tireless work while training and operating forward.”