THE PENTAGON — Defense Department officials stressed that military aviation was “not a crisis” just hours after presidential helicopter Marine One crashed into the The White House, sources confirmed today.
The latest in a string of aircraft mishaps happened late Monday, when a Sikorsky VH-60N helicopter operated by Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) crashed directly into the largest room of the White House, the reception and event space known as the East Room, though officials claimed it was merely a “hard landing” — not a crash that obliterated the aircraft, most of the building’s walls, and ignited fire and smoke that could be seen from as far away as Pittsburgh.
Speaking from the Pentagon parking lot to reporters as smoke clouds billowed in the background, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said that each aviation mishap was separate and had different contributing factors, stressing that there was no trend to be found amid a new high of fatal military aviation accidents in six years.
“This is not a crisis,” White told reporters Tuesday. “But it is a crisis for the families of the 35 service members killed in FY 2018,” she added, sharing a number that has already surpassed the 33 aviation deaths from 2017, even though there are still four fucking months left in this fiscal year.
“Fortunately the president was not on board the aircraft at the time and no one important was injured,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the crash, which killed the pilot, co-pilot, crew chief, a White House groundskeeper, and two adorable squirrels as they were mating on the lawn.
Some in Congress have argued the recent spike in aviation accidents requires an independent review, which, if carried out, would find that automatic budget cuts known as sequestration gutted aircraft maintenance budgets and led to a huge increase in aviation accidents since 2013, which would pit the blame solely on Congress. The final independent report, once released, would be highly redacted except for a small portion of text blaming Russia, officials said.
Meanwhile, top U.S. military leaders told reporters they were taking the crashes seriously, as all have directed their pilots and ground crews to forgo flight training and maintenance in favor of increased risk assessments, safety stand-downs, and online SERE training.
Dirk Diggler contributed reporting.