Army National Guard grounds helicopters after 2 crashes

All Army National Guard helicopter units are grounded for a safety review following a string of incidents involving the rotary wing aircraft, including a deadly crash.

Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen ordered the aviation safety stand-down to “review safety policies and procedures,” after a Mississippi National Guard Apache helicopter crashed Feb. 23, killing the two pilots aboard. A Utah National Guard Apache crashed Feb. 12, with both pilots surviving.  

The stand-down, which went into effect Monday and was announced Tuesday, is expected to lift after all units finish their review, though the release did not specify how long that may take.

“We are a combat force with helicopters training or on mission worldwide every day,” Jensen said in Tuesday press release. “Safety is always at the top of our minds. We will stand down to ensure all of our crews are prepared as well as possible for whatever they’re asked to do.” 

The causes of both recent crashes have not been publicly released, but the incidents are being investigated by the Army’s Combat Readiness Center. 

Mississippi officials identified the two guard members killed Friday as Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Andrew Zemek and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Joshua Abbott. They crashed near Booneville when their Apache went down in a rural wooded area during a “routine training flight,” according to the Army National Guard. 

The pair of accidents comes less than a year after a March 2023 crash that killed nine soldiers, when two Army Black Hawk helicopters collided outside of Fort Campbell, Ky., one of the deadliest training incidents in the service’s history.   

The incident prompted then-Army chief Gen. James McConville to order a service-wide stand-down in April, a rare occurrence.  

Prior to that, a Black Hawk crash in February 2023 killed two Tennessee guard members, and a crash in 2021 involving the same aircraft killed three New York National Guard soldiers.   

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