Murphy's Law: June 6, 2004


U.S. Army helicopter pilots are again being allowed to practice violent maneuvers while training, and in combat. This sort of dangerous behavior had been forbidden for years, lest it lead to accidents. This policy evolved despite the fact that it had been learned in Israel and Chechnya (in the last few years), Somalia (in 1993) and Afghanistan (during the 1980s) that the safest thing for a helicopter to do in a combat zone was move around a lot, using violent maneuvers to make it difficult for someone on the ground to score a hit. But peacetime training exercises that feature helicopter crashes can be fatal to the career of the senior officers in charge. These guys are flying desks, with their combat flying days behind. They are more afraid of losing a promotion than they are of seeing one of their trainees get killed in combat because dangerous maneuvers are not allowed during peacetime training. Recent combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed all that. The lack of risky training maneuvers is now recognized by all (including those in Congress who love to investigate the army for flight safety problems) as more dangerous for pilots than the training accidents that sort of thing causes.  It usually takes a war to shake the safety first people out of their bad habits. But after the war on terror is over, the old habits of safety first and combat training last will return. They always do. 


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