CAFB to take safety 'pause' Monday

Staff Writer

Columbus Air Force Base will take Monday to study all its operations for potential safety improvements as part of an Air Force-wide border for bases to take a day to re-examine operations in the wake of a recent string of crashes.

Earlier this week, the Air Force ordered all base commanders to pause operations for one day prior to May 21 after a series of crashes in recent weeks, the most recent in Georgia where at Puerto Rico National Guard C-130 went down, claiming nine lives.

"I am directing this operational safety review to allow our commanders to assess and discuss the safety of our operations and to gather feedback from our airmen who are doing the mission every day," said Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force.

In a statement in response to an inquiry by the Daily Times Leader, Columbus Air Force Base said, “In response to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's directed Operational Safety Review Day, the 14th Flying Training Wing will pause all flying operations on Monday, May 14, 2018, to review how every Wing member identifies hazards that may lead to future aircraft mishaps.

“Meetings with base personnel will start at the Wing level then will subsequently separate into smaller groups and squadrons to narrow down the focus.

“Effective safety programs are proactive and integrated into the culture of our organization. Columbus AFB has not had an aviation-related fatality in over 10 years and it is our goal and intent to continue this trend,” the statement continued.

According to Air Force data, the military has seen a 48 percent increase in the rate of aircraft crashes in fiscal year 2018 where someone was killed, permanently disabled or that caused over $2 million in damages.

U.S. military officials have said the crashes across the different branches of the military are not a crisis.

“This is not a crisis. But it is a crisis for each of these families... these are across services, and these are different individuals and different circumstances,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told the media this week.

"We cannot afford to lose a single airman or weapons system due to a mishap that could have been prevented," Goldfein said in a statement. "Our men and women have volunteered to give their last full measure for America's security. My intent is to have commanders lead focused forums with their airmen to help identify gaps and seams that exist or are developing, which could lead to future mishaps or unsafe conditions."

With almost 3,000 military and civilian employees, Columbus Air Force Base is the region’s largest employer and pumps more than $250 million in direct benefits into the region’s economy plus millions more in indirect benefits and veterans payments.