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National Guard Grounds Helicopters After Deadly Crash

The Army National Guard’s top officer grounded the guard’s fleet of helicopters across all of its components after two Apache helicopter crashes in February, according to a press release issued Tuesday.

The aviation safety stand-down of all helicopter units across the Army National Guard’s 54 states and jurisdictions went into effect on Monday, according to the release from the National Guard Bureau. Until the stand-down ends, units will “review safety policies and procedures” in response to two separate crashes of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters on Feb. 12 and Feb. 23, the latter mishap killing two pilots.

“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,” Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, said in the press release.

The Army National Guard operates helicopter units around the world on a daily basis, he said.

Mississippi Army National Guard pilots Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Zemek and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Derek Abbott died when their Apache crashed during a routine training mission on Feb. 23, according to the statement.

Earlier in February, a Utah Army National Guard Apache crashed and ended up on its side during a training exercise, injuring the two crew members, according to KUTV, a Utah CBS affiliate.

Jensen did not specify a timeframe for the stand-down in the statement.

The Army’s Combat Readiness Center is investigating the causes and circumstances of the two crashes, according to Military Times.

Separately, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, used primarily for transportation and cargo delivery, remains grounded among each of the services that operates the aircraft. The U.S. military grounded its entire fleet of Ospreys on Dec. 6, one week after a deadly crash off the coast of southern Japan killed eight Air Force crew members.

It was the latest in a series of alarming and fatal mishaps that prompted the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to confine their Osprey units to the ground. The Air Force has identified the responsible material failure but has yet to determine why the part failed, according to a Feb. 20 release.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said he did not have any timelines or updates to provide regarding the safety stand-downs for either the Apache or the Osprey at a press conference Tuesday.

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