Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has ordered a review of mishaps and pilot training following the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines commercial passenger plane, the second crash in less than five months of a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane with a controversial autopilot system. Those planes are now grounded worldwide.
The Air Force is also offering the Federal Aviation Administration full support and assistance from service safety resources, an Air Force official said Friday.
“Goldfein also tasked the USAF Safety Center to analyze previous Air Force mishaps involving autopilot anomalies,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in an email.
“As an Air Force we review our flight procedures based on the latest data or accident findings to ensure the safety of our aircrews and the effectiveness of our missions,” Stefanek added. “The USAF does not fly the models of aircraft involved in the recent accidents but we are taking this opportunity to exercise due diligence by reviewing our procedures and training as part of our normal and ongoing review process."
CNN first reported that Goldfein ordered a review of training procedures for military pilots of large cargo and transport planes, including Air Force One, on Wednesday.
Goldfein told CNN he wants to ensure Air Force pilots are prepared to handle emergency procedures and know how and when to turn off automated pilot systems if they encounter any issues.
The order covers cargo and transport aircraft such as the new KC-46 Pegasus, which is manufactured by Boeing.
There is no indication of problems with any Boeing-manufactured aircraft the Air Force operates.
The Boeing VC-25 — a modified military version of the Boeing 747 and also known as Air Force One — ferries the president of the United States.
The Pentagon is considering revisions to the dollar amounts and damage levels that qualify an aircraft accident as a major mishap to better reflect the expense of repairing advanced jets.
The crash in Ethiopia, which killed 157 passengers, came just 19 weeks after the Oct. 29 Lion Air crash of a Max 8 aircraft that killed more than 180 people passengers and crew near Jakarta, Indonesia.
No other commercial aircraft has been involved in that rapid of a loss of life since 1966, according to the Quartz news site.
The automated pilot systems on Air Force aircraft, which do not include Max 8 models, are different than those on the Boeing planes that crashed, an official told CNN.
The significant loss of life has raised questions about whether pilots had proper training on the Boeing 737 Max 8 and knew how to find a solution if their automated systems failed them in-flight.