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Gear Up, Mishaps Down

The Evolution of Naval Aviation Safety, 1950-2000
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Published:January 15, 2017
By Robert F. Dunn (Author)

Watch or download the podcast of Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, USN (Ret.) discussing naval aviation readiness and safety in an age of high-tempo operations at the Pritzker Military Musem & Library in Chicago. 

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.


List Price: $29.95
Member Price: $23.96
Product Details
  • Hardback : 224 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (January 15, 2017)
  • ISBN-10: 1682470059
  • ISBN-13: 9781682470053
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 16 oz
  • “This book is written with a clear overall plan and easy to follow.” —Air Power History
  • “Admiral Dunn has added immensely to our knowledge of how to decrease mishaps in the naval aviation community. His book is on that every squadron commander should read, reread and take to heart.” —The Daybook
  • “ excellent read for naval historians, pilots and safety managers but perhaps also chief executives who need an example of successful culture change within a large organization.” —Aerospace/The Aeronautical Journal
  • “While Gear Up, Mishaps Down should be of interest to anyone who follows military aviation, it should definitely be read by squadron Cos, XOs and Safety Officers almost as part of their pass-down folders…” —The A-4 Ever
  • “Dunn does a good job of describing the various threads that led to the Navy’s victory over mishaps and the book is worthwhile reading for anyone who has ever been involved in naval aviation, but in the end it falls short of delivering more-thorough reporting.” —Naval War College Review
  • “Who knew that one of the great modern leaders of naval aviation was a litterateur! With the introduction of jets into aircraft carriers, the chances of career Navy pilots being killed in an accident in the 1950s was 25 percent. The untold story of how the Navy reduced peacetime crashes from nearly two thousand per year to the current rate of fewer than twenty, all while fighting wars and keeping the peace, is a fascinating read. Vice Admiral Dunn takes what could have been a dull technical history and turns it into a real page-turner full of hair-raising anecdotes and clear, jargon-free prose. Everyone who has ever flown needs to get this book.” —JOHN F. LEHMAN, 65th Secretary of the Navy
  • “This comprehensive story of naval aviation safety over the decades will resonate with every naval aviator, young and old, as he or she relives their personal contribution to the mishap/accident database as participants toward solutions that have led to extraordinary achievement in design, production, and aerial performance, in peacetime and combat. This is a must-read by all who ever wore the Navy wings of gold as well as all who have an interest in the improvement of safety in any complex enterprise.” —ADM. THOMAS B. HAYWARD, USN (Ret.), 21st Chief of Naval Operations
  • “Thorough and authoritative, meticulously documented and with valuable appendices, this is a long-needed contribution both to the history of naval aviation and to the evolution of aviation safety within the U.S. military. Bravo Zulu, Admiral Dunn.” —DR. RICHARD P. HALLION, former historian of the U.S. Air Force, author of The Naval Air War in Korea and Strike from the Sky: The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1911‒1945
  • “Vice Adm. Bob Dunn’s thorough research is enhanced by his firsthand experience with the issues he describes and his exceptional knowledge of the subject. The approaches and techniques pursued by the Navy that Dunn describes have application to any line of endeavor and are recommended for anyone faced with solving complex problems.” —GEN. J. R. DAILEY, USMC (Ret.), Director, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
  • “Nobody knows more about naval aviation than Vice Adm. Bob Dunn. As a highly regarded fleet aviator and former commander of the Naval Safety Center, he is perfectly placed to write this insightful history of carrier aviation's decades-long search for improved equipment, procedures, and techniques. His well-researched text is enhanced by descriptions of the personalities most responsible for raising safety from the doldrums of the 1950s, when the future of carrier aviation looked uncertain, to today's unparalleled levels of operating efficiency.” —BARRETT TILLMAN, author of On Wave and Wing: The 100-Year Quest to Perfect the Aircraft Carrier
  • “The book does an admirable job of identifying the technical, cultural, and political issues that drove the need for enhanced and standardized flight safety.” —Air Space and Power Journal

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.

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