But the in-flight emergency over Texas and the subsequent grounding has come as the U.S. Air Force, as well as the rest of the services, continue to struggle with a serious spike in aviation mishaps. So far, in 2018 alone, accidents have killed more than two dozen U.S. military aviators.
There has been a slew of in-flight emergencies across the Air Force for various different reasons since the incident in Texas, but thankfully without any injuries. Many more never get reported publicly.
There has been a surge in crashes, too. On May 23, 2018, a T-38C Talon jet trainer also crashed in Mississippi, but the crew was able to safely eject. This was the first Air Force crash after a WC-130H from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard came down in Georgia on May 2, killing all nine individuals on board.
The Air Force says it is taking steps to investigate whether there are systemic problems at play across the service and it completed a service-wide safety review on June 6, 2018. According to Military.com, the Air Force said at least some airmen used anonymous "safety channels" to submit information, which individuals typically do out of fear of retaliation from their superiors.
"Air Force active-duty units have completed the Operational Safety Review announced in May, while Reserve and Guard units still have until June 25 to complete the review," Erika Yepsen, an Air Force spokesperson, told Military.com. "The feedback will be reviewed across Air Force organizational levels – wings, major commands, as well as Headquarters Air Force."
There was no clear indication of what the review had concluded and what recommendations it might have for units across the Air Force. The Pentagon and the individual services have all repeatedly insisted that the surge in mishaps is not a broad crisis and that each individual incident is a unique confluence of factors.
However, there is significant evidence to show that the Air Force and other services responded to years of budget cuts and caps by pulling funding from operations and maintenance accounts, which has had a cascading impact on readiness throughout the U.S. military. In addition, the Air Force, in particular, has been experiencing an unprecedented shortage of pilots and maintenance personnel, which can only have exacerbated the issues.
"The safety of Airmen is the command’s top priority," Air Force Global Strike Command said in its June 8, 2018 statement. "The Air Force takes safety incidents seriously and works diligently to identify and correct potential causes."
Hopefully the issues with the B-1Bs ejection seats, and any other problems the investigation into the May 1 mishap turn up, will be easy to fix and those Bone crews can get back flying safely soon.
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