Mandates from the Secretaries of Defense and the Navy to cut pilot mishaps are achievable only if training actually involves flying.
Naval aviators on active duty will instantly recognize a graph of historic aviation mishap rates often publicized by the Naval Safety Center. From a high of 55 Class A mishaps per 100,000 flight hours in 1953, the rate has steadily declined to 2.14 in 2004.1 Even so, 28 naval aircraft were destroyed in fiscal year 2004 at a cost of $1.25 billion and a loss of 19 lives (see Figure I).2
That may sound like an exorbitant price to pay. Certainly if it were possible to crash less and kill fewer aviators without affecting readiness, a lower mishap rate would be desirable. Several recent safety initiatives hope to lower that rate. But they seem unlikely to have the intended effect.