AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy –— Italian Brig. Gen. Luca Valeriani is leading a delegation to Aviano Air Base on Tuesday to talk about flight safety in Italy with his American counterparts from the Air Force, Army and Navy.

The group, dubbed the Joint Flying Safety Review Group, meets twice each year “to discuss joint flight safety issues that run the gamut,” said Lt. Col. Tony Abernathy, chief of safety for the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano.

Valeriani, chief of flight safety for the Italian air force, and Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, the 31st commander, co-chair the group, which includes representatives from all the American services and their counterparts.

The group’s origins date to the aftermath of the Feb. 3, 1998, disaster in which a Marine EA-6B Prowler launched from Aviano clipped a ski gondola car cable near Cavalese, sending 20 people to their deaths.

Either side can bring up any issue it wants addressed, Abernathy said. At a meeting in Rome at the end of last year, a big topic was two accidents that happened near Aviano. An F-16CG crashed Sept. 18 in the mountains near the hamlet of Soramae di Zolto Alto, although the pilot safely bailed out. Six servicemembers died on Nov. 8 when a Black Hawk helicopter assigned to Company G, 52nd Aviation Regiment, crashed southwest of Aviano.

Valeriani said he believes that U.S. military officials, acting in coordination with their Italian counterparts, investigated both accidents thoroughly and that lessons were learned. He said he believed that corrective measures have been taken on base, although Franklin has declined to discuss those measures in the past.

Valeriani, who has logged more than 5,000 flight hours in various aircraft in his military career, was set to fly (in the back seat) of an F-16 for the first time later Monday. He was scheduled to take part in a close air support training mission that Franklin was due to lead.

The Italian general said he believed that such visits provide valuable insight on how the Americans operate on a daily basis.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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