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Gears Up, Mishaps Down


Less than five years after U.S. naval aviation led the victory over Imperial Japan, that very organization was in crisis. The force had been drastically reduced, and growing sentiment argued that the new U.S. Air Force could do anything naval aviation might be required to do. Meanwhile, the community’s mishap rate soared, leading to the loss of hundreds of people over thousands of accidents.

With these twin pressures, naval aviation needed either to improve or perish. It took fifty years to turn this around. Today, in spite of hot wars, cold wars, contingencies, and peacetime operations in support of friends and allies, the Navy and Marine Corps accident rate is at least as good as that of the Air Force, and approaches that of commercial aviation. Gear Up, Mishaps Down explains how this accomplishment was achieved through dedicated and professional leadership, a focus on lessons learned from mishaps and near-mishaps, a willingness to learn from other enterprises, and by better training, maintenance, and supply.

Now, even with the need to maintain high readiness for combat and in the face of continued high-tempo operations prompted by various crises around the world, naval aviation has never been safer.

About the Author

Robert F. Dunn is a naval aviator who commanded a jet squadron in combat, the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and the Naval Safety Center. His last Navy assignment was as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare. In retirement he served as Deputy Chairman of the NASA Aerospace Advisory Panel and Chairman of a GSA Blue Ribbon Panel to examine non-DOD government aircraft safety