It Could Happen to Anyone

It Could Happen to Anyone

The accident graph of the IAF shows a substantial drop since the 1980’s, and 2014 came to a close with no major accidents. Here’s how the world of aerial safety takes a central role in the IAF

Vered Talala

The number of serious aerial accidents in the IAF since 2001 is very low. In 2006, there were four incidents, and in 2013, three, but the average of the rest of the years was two. Despite this, in the recent months there has been a rash of safety incidents in the Air Force. “This streak of events is an anomaly” explained Lt. Col. Ilan, Commander of the Safety and Quality Control unit in the IAF. “The IAF, especially the combat wing, has not flown the standard schedule for practice exercises that it used to practicing for an extended period. During Operation “Protective Edge” we flew 50 days of operational missions”.

Safety is not above all else
The soldiers of the Safety and Quality Control unit spend all year investigating safety and coming up with new ways to educate people about it- all in order to prevent the next accident. “Safety is not the number one priority of the IAF, the top priority needs to be the operational capabilities and the ability to carry out its missions” stated Lt. Col. Ilan. “Our job is to make sure that the IAF is carrying out its missions and making sure to ensure that they take the minimal number of risks at the same time”.

The goal of the unit is to take leading and formative role in the process of improving aerial safety in the IAF, by advising, recommending changes, training, creating new methods of improving safety, and advising the general staff, where part of their task is to rank the severity of accidents by the potential for damage that exists. A severe accident will be ranked as such in the event that there are fatalities or if the damage exceeds two million dollars. “A safety incident is defined as a situation where we have arrived at a dangerous situation and it can be created from a variety of factors. One of them is the violation of safety rules and regulations, and in accordance with the nature of the situation the commanders will be advised as how to deal with the infraction”.

“It is forbidden to die during practice”
2014 came to a close with no major accidents, and the last major incident took place in March 2013, during a night time training session with “Cobra” attack helicopters due to a technical malfunction. The statistics of accidents in the IAF also show serious improvement from the 1980’s.

All of the safety incidents of late, which have been categorized as “serious” were investigated in depth by the squadron. In one of the incidents, Major General Amir Eshel, the IAF Commander, decided to have the Safety and Quality Control unit open an investigation even though the air crew successfully landed the aircraft. “The IAF Commander and of the Safety and Quality Control unit was that even though the incident didn’t end too badly, we can learn to prevent a worse one from occurring” explained Lt. Col. Yotam, a former commander of the Safety and Quality Control unit, who investigated major safety accidents and who lost a good friend in one. “During the 1980’s there was a saying in the IAF ‘It is forbidden to die during practice’. We are practicing in order to be ready for the real thing, and if we lose men and planes during practices we will have fewer resources to use in combat”.

This motto still rings in the halls of the IAF, and aerial safety is taken with the utmost seriousness by all commanders. “I don’t see a situation where there will no longer be any safety issues, but the state of aerial safety that the IAF is in today is incredibly high, and that is a great source of pride, as well as a testament to the professionalism of those who plan exercises and missions. The knowledge we have acquired over the years will continue to grow and we will continue to improve our regulations in order to prevent the next accident from becoming a reality”.