ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference regarding Black Hawk helicopter safety following fatal crashes that have killed soldiers over the past two years.
In 2021, a fatal crash that killed three soldiers in Mendon.
“At the time of the devastation 2021 cash, I joined the community in calling for an immediate investigation into the matter,” Schumer said. “Sadly, our calls then are even more potent now after yet another helicopter crash in Kentucky occurred.”
A few weeks ago, nine people were killed in Kentucky after two Black Hawk medical helicopters crashed during a training exercise.
As News 8 reported last April, there were five deadly Black Hawk crashes in a period of 18 months: Mendon, Utah, Idaho, Georgia, and the Middle East. At the time, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called to ground all Black Hawks.
During the virtual conference, Schumer revealed a report of the investigation into Black Hawk helicopter safety, as well as discussing changes to be made to protect servicemembers.
The Government Accountability Office completed its investigation into the crashes, Schumer said, and has recommended a list of immediate reforms.
“If we can learn the lessons from previous crashes, we can go a long way in preventing new ones,” Schumer said.
The recommended changes include more maintenance crews and more flight simulation equipment, which will help in the ultimate goal of increased training and preparation.
“Flight hour requirements have been one of the biggest problems we’ve seen so far. Many pilots are falling short of their branch’s own goals for how long pilots should train. Let me say that again: the pilots in training aren’t even able to meet their own goals. It’s a huge safety concern that has to be fixed immediately. Rochester– and New York– suffered an unforgettable loss two years ago. Now it’s a constant reminder that the safety of our servicemembers must be our number one — our highest priority,” said Sen. Schumer.
Family members of the fallen Soldiers also attended the call.
“My son would have retired this year — his little son is five years old,” the mother of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch–Josephine Koch– said during the Zoom conference.
“I don’t think that there’s adequate [training] time for the pilots […] I know those three men, my son being the chief pilot, were 100% dedicated to their job and wanted to come home at night. And that procedure, like Senator Schumer stated should never — never — have been practiced in the air. Make your mistakes in a simulator, for God’s sake,” said Koch.
In January 2021, the UH-60 medical evaluation helicopter was on a routine training mission before crashing in a farmer’s field on West Bloomfield Road near Cheese Factory Road. The State National Guard said the cause of the crash was due to a “procedural error during an emergency training maneuver.”
That maneuver was decided to be performed in the future only in simulation, never again in actual flight.
The other victims in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial.