News | Dec. 21, 2022

HSC-3, HSC-4, VRM-30 Receive Navy’s Highest Flight Safety Award

By Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Eshleman

Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces, presented the 2021 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Aviation Safety Award to the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, the “Black Knights” of HSC-4 and the “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30 aboard Naval Air Station North Island, California, Oct. 20.

Also known as the Safety “S,” the Navy’s highest flight safety award is bestowed upon Navy and Marine Corps commands that have demonstrated exceptional and sustained safety excellence.

This achievement is based upon aircraft flight mishap rates, currency of safety programs, the number of aircraft being flown and the amount of time the aircraft spent supporting deployed operations.

”The safety award is truly a manifestation of the quality, safe, professional operations, both flying the aircraft, as well as the maintainers doing an incredible job with maintaining the platforms that we have,” Whitesell said. “Our business is inherently dangerous, and it’s the professionalism of the maintainers and aircrew that enable us to give confidence to the moms and dads that send you out into the world to defend your country. I can’t do that myself; it’s you all that do that.”

Despite the unique challenges of an immensely large and diverse squadron, HSC-3 spearheaded COVID-19 operational risk controls, including distance learning and COVID patient transfer protocols, enabling the execution of 11,031 flight hours to qualify future warfighters in the MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter, as well as MQ-8B/C Firescout unmanned aerial vehicles. The squadron also conducted firefighting operations in support of California Fire and Federal Fire, flying 56 hours and dropping 166 “Bambi Buckets” of water in support of the shore bombardment area (SHOBA) fire and the Corey Iverson Wildland exercise. HSC-3’s proactive participation and feedback in the Safety Systems Working Group, Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) Program Manager Summit, and Mine Warfare Improvement Program (MIWIP) helped enable safe and responsible operations within the community.

HSC-4 executed 2,959 total flight hours while maintaining eight mission-capable aircraft while embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11), as well as detachments to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, and Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. Overall, the squadron has flown more than 69,128 hours without a Class A mishap.

The “Titans” acquired 10 additional aircraft and supported two deployments, including the inaugural deployment of three CMV-22B Osprey aircraft as part of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. VRM-30 successfully deployed one detachment, conducted independent operations, and supported VRM-50, the Navy’s CMV-22B Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), during their Safe-for-Flight certification. The Titans flew 1,022 sorties totaling 2,039 flight hours, including 520 night hours, with no aviation mishaps.

“There is no differentiation between our safety performance and our operational performance,” Whitesell said. “You must have both at the same time. A safe squadron is also an operationally effective squadron.”

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Eshleman.