Thursday, February 02, 2006

Not Altitude Capable

The media's job, if you want to know, is to tell us what to fear. As the fourth estate, combined with the other three they waste billions of dollars on figuring out how to fix problems that may or may not exist.

I don't get to ride in helicopters very often, but this article doesn't give me any reason to fear it (I've pasted most of the article, interspersed with my comments, since it isn't available for free online):
Lawmakers Will Question Military On Reason Behind Increase In Helicopter Accidents

By George Cahlink

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), believes military helicopter accidents have increased in recent years and will use a congressional hearing today to find out if faulty technology or other reasons are behind the spike.

“We have seen a rising number of rotorcraft accidents and we want to know why,” Weldon told Defense Daily.

According to Weldon, rotorcraft accidents from both hostile and non-hostile actions have risen every year since 2001 before leveling off in 2005. He said lawmakers plan to press Army and Marine Corps aviation leaders at a HASC hearing today on whether the increase is because of poor aircraft design, training and maintenance problems, or an increasingly hostile operating environment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 2001 the Army has logged 25 hostile accidents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Marines have recorded seven accidents from hostile attacks. Meanwhile, the Army had 75 helicopter accidents from non-hostile actions over the same timeframe, while the Marines suffered 13 accidents.
So far, I'm thinking this is fishy, because although I see statistics, I see no references - always a recipe for poor decision-making.
Weldon also said he wanted to make sure the military was collecting lessons learned from those accidents to make sure they would not happen again. “Are we establishing lessons learned that we can build into our future programs,” he asked.

“It’s an issue that has not been focused on yet,” said Weldon. He said rotorcraft safety deserves the same focus as lawmakers have given to providing armor for ground troops and their vehicles.
Gee. Thanks. This falls right into my opinion on body armor and HMMWVs. Would you goofballs please stop trying to protect us from things? All this extra protection is nice, because it may save lives, but it also weighs down troops and vehicles, and gives John Murtha and Hillary Clinton something to blather about. There is a certain amount of risk involved in combat and we've readily accepted that risk. Certainly, I would like that risk managed, but risk avoidance is not what we do.
Army aviations officials said at a Association of the United States Army symposium last month that aircraft survivability was a top priority. Those officials said more than $1 billion has been earmarked for improved aircraft safety in recent years from the money the service saved by killing the Comanche helicopter.

Col. Bill Stevenson, the Army’s program director for aircraft survivability, said the Army is in the midst of outfitting all rotorcraft and fixed wing aircraft with a suite of counter measure systems. Stevenson said the program has gone from a “slow walk to a hundred yard dash” since 19 military personnel perished when a transport helicopter was brought down by hostile fire in late 2003.
If you haven't figured it out, these counter measure systems may do something about those "hostile accidents" (read: RPG attacks, etc. Good grief, now engagements are "accidents"?), but not much for mechanical failure, which seems to be what the Honorable Rep. Weldon seems concerned about. A helicopter is a machine that will pretty much drop out of the sky if anything goes wrong with it. You can ditch, but it's not pretty; surviving a helicopter crash is a rare thing. That's why pilots are the most cautious, procedure-driven people you will ever meet.
According to Stevenson, aircraft will be outfitted with two systems, both designed by BAE Systems--the Common Missile Warning System and Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasure System. CMWS, which the Army is already producing at a rate of 30 per month, that counters missile by launching flares; while ATIRCMS, which is still undergoing testing, uses laser jammers. Stevenson said the suite of systems would be outfitted on 1,710 aircraft (the number of aircraft the service believes are needed for combat operations) over the next several years. He declined to say how many aircraft already had some capability, but said the systems were being outfitted on aircraft in as soon as they were produced.

Stevenson said the CMWS could increase production to 40 systems per month by this summer, while ATIRCMS would soon be ready for operational testing, a precursor to entering full-rate production.


So. Nowhere in the article was there any mention of work being done to prevent mechanical failure, whether Rep. Weldon is remotely concerned about mechanical failure or whether there is a statistically significant increase in helicopter accidents of any kind that would warrant this kind of attention. It's like saying global warming is real because we're having an exceptionally mild winter, and we must therefore spend billions of dollars trying to prevent it. And like global warming (which I'll get to later), this is one more case of Congress being taken for a ride by people who prove things by saying, "because I said so."

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