Oh Great.

Good to know our skies are protected

Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Air Force temporarily grounded its fleet of Boeing Co. F-15 fighter-bombers, including those flying missions in Afghanistan, the service said, citing “airworthiness concerns.”
The grounding of more than 700 aircraft, which includes F- 15E fighter-bombers that carry the largest U.S. precision guided weapons, took place after the crash of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C fighter on Nov. 2.

30 year old planes are starting to fall apart? No kidding.

22 Responses to “Oh Great.”

  1. Skyler says:

    That is a ridiculous over statement.
    Aircraft get grounded all the time due to concern of issues coming up that are not yet understood or that need to be rectified. This website alone has taken glee in pointing out groundings of the V-22 and that isn’t very old at all.
    Grounding has little to do with age in many instances. Often an issue that prompts a grounding is due to new equipment that has been added to an aircraft that is not functioning as expected. The reasons can be quite varied.
    Despite the article’s tie in to the F-22 (which I personally think is a waste of money) I have enough respect for the integrity of the DoD’s aircraft mishap boards to think that the grounding is motivated by a desire to buy more F-22’s.

  2. Robb Allen says:

    Well, to be fair, I *am* no longer working on them, so you have to give them some credit for being a little jumpy.

  3. Mr. Bingley says:

    Er, I don’t think it is ridiculous to think that 30 year old airframes that have been subject to mach stresses might since the Carter Era might need a little extra attention, especially now that they are denied Robb’s.

  4. This website alone has taken glee in pointing out groundings of the V-22…
    Skyler, I’m coming over there right now and smacking the shit out of you, so stay where you are. GLEE?! When there has already been an inordinate amount of casualties and outright fraud and deception where both the contractor AND the Osprey training squadron participated? GLEE?! An platform TIME magazine took to the woodshed just a month ago? What have we ever said that implied we were tickled to death (‘death’ being the operative word around this thing)(GLEE) every time something went wrong, horribly or otherwise, with that airplane? And you forget, major dad was in on the program from buying those very first nuts and bolts, before one of them ever arrived in New River. Man, you piss me off sometimes.
    I will agree with you on the grounding to a certain extent. Everybody gets grounded sometime for something BUT. As for Bingley’s assertion that 30 year old airplanes don’t make for good g-capable aircraft, he’s right, considering the newswires are saying initial indications are it came apart in flight. I don’t think you were on the coast yet, but we had a lovely stretch in the mid-80’s where wings fell off of 20+ year old A-6E’s because…they’d been overstressed (proving detrimental to the aircrew, two of whom memorably ejected into a Yuma hillside). Which is why we had all weather attack aircraft that couldn’t pull over 3.5 g’s. Worthless. The Navy got the ‘new’ ones for the carrier thanks to the stresses associated with that. Hell, we even had to pull our nose struts off if they had less time to swap with carrier aircraft because of the thumping. I can imagine the yanking and banking in a fighter aircraft to be substantially more than our yahoos would pull and, after thirty years or so, kinda put a hurt on the airframe that maybe doesn’t show up in a NDI.
    Maybe they want new airplanes, but for the Airforce to ground them in a time of war? Might tell you something. (They’ve already moved a carrier from the Persian Gulf to the north Arabian Sea so F-18’s can pick up the slack caused by the grounding…from CNN: ” Pentagon officials said the U.S. Navy has had to move the only aircraft carrier in the region from the Persian Gulf to the North Arabian Sea to fill mission gaps for the F-15s.
    Several dozen F/A-18 fighters from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise will fly missions with other Air Force aircraft to fill mission gaps.”)
    Glee. Pffft.

  5. Skyler says:

    Okay, ths, I’ll stay right here.
    1. The air force is just barely at war. The F-15 is not especially needed at this time for anything to do with the current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    2. I’m very well aware of the G-limitations on the A-6E as it was the most important part of my job to monitor that program for the squadron. I’m also very familiar with the low cycle fatigue problems associated with the J-52P-8B and J-52P-408 engines.
    The wing fatigue on the A-6E was related to age in a certain way. Mostly, the way the wing was built was revolutionary. A solid brick of aluminum was carved out into the shape of the wing sections (the structural part, not the airfoil part). Aluminum at the time was considered noncorrodible. That is, they didn’t know that aluminum would exfoliate or be subject to intergranular corrosion. This made the problem even worse than with steel wings because with steel you would at least be able to see the corrosion but with aluminum it could be all occurring below the visible surface.
    When the wings began to corrode internally, they began to fall off in flight.
    A similar issue could very well be happening with the F-15, but we don’t know that. The board is still investigating. And the answer is often to fix the problem, not buy a new aircraft. That is, age might be related to this problem, but once the problem is fixed the age becomes just another of many, many things associated with an aircraft.
    A poorly designed or maintained new aircraft is potentially much deadlier than an old one that is well maintained and upgraded.
    3. Glee was perhaps a poor choice of words, but the point remains valid that the problems with grounding the V-22 is reported here and it is not an old aircraft, thus people who read this blog regularly should know that age is not always a reason associated with grounding aircraft.

  6. (That was a lovely circle you just talked yourself around! I’m so dizzy, I can’t get over there to pop you in the chops, so we’ll have to reschedule.)

  7. Skyler says:

    Circle? Yes, age CAN be a factor, but it is not the only, or even the most important factor. That’s my point.

  8. Mr. Bingley says:

    I’m still trying to find my ridiculous overstatement.
    But that’s just me.

  9. Circle, indeed.

    “…the problems with grounding the V-22 is reported here and it is not an old aircraft, thus people who read this blog regularly should know that age is not always a reason associated with grounding aircraft.”

    I would think they’d be able to reason through that, ya know? Even people who had stumbled on our Osprey posts by accident would be able to figure ‘new plane’. But we do have an overabundance of engineers in our little cabal, so one can never be sure…

  10. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Skyler, any structural component in a space frame will exhibit failure due to fatigue. This is far more pronounced on moving platforms, especially on high peformance jet aircraft.
    Worse, that fatigue is cumalative over time. Stresses on part “A” impact part “b” which in turn messes with part “b”, and so on. Even with rebuilds, after 30 years of pulling high g turns, an entire aircraft frame is going to be subject to fatigue failure.
    Sooner or later, the system will fall out of the orignal performance specifications.
    It’s called “getting old”. This is true for anything with moving parts, be it a fighter aircraft or a WWII era Garand rifle. If you aren’t careful, it’ll fall apart on you.

  11. The_Real_JeffS says:

    PS: Falling apart in mid air is what happens when a system falls “…out of the orignal performance specifications.”

  12. Skyler says:

    Not quite complete.
    The A-6E is an excellent example of an aging aircraft that was put back in good condition with proper repairs. It was cheaper to replace the wings than buy new aircraft. With new wings, the fatigue issue was corrected. The new wings were not of the same design or material.
    The F/A-18 is an example of fatigue occurring in a new aircraft. They corrected the tails falling (or starting to fall) off by adding a LEX fence to the wing root.
    The B-52 has been around for a long time, pulling a lot of G’s. Age can impact an aircraft, but it is only one thing that affects it, and there are other, usually more significant factors.

  13. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Skyler, true enough, the maintenance efforts on those aircraft is incredible.
    But, sooner or later, you either end up replacing the entire airframe, part by part, or you risk fatigue failure. And after decades of flying, you have to expect that some air frames will simply fail because someone missed a part, or the rebuild job wasn’t quite up to specs. Or other reasons.
    The real problem is that Congress is generally unwilling to fund new weapon platforms, but will spend money on endless maintenance. The Buffs have been around for what, 50+ years? They’re great aircraft, but wouldn’t it more effective (cost and technological wise) to build *new* B52s, instead of endlessly rebuilding old ones? Taking full advantage of the advances in materials, electronics, and so on, by design, instead of piecemeal?
    It’s a great challenge to the technoweenie (which includes me, by the way). But is that the best approach to resolving the problem?
    Likewise with the fighters. I’m not excited about any one-size-fits-all design approach (let alone on weapon systems), but at least the F22 incorporates new technology, and the aircraft won’t be older than some of the pilots.

  14. Skyler says:

    I agree completely, JeffS, except that the F-22 is a bit too much at this time. We have higher priorities for our defense budget right now, in ny estimation.

  15. Ah, but there comes a time when the entire airframe becomes Frankenstein’s monster ~ no essential original parts and only the thinnest original tissue holding the cobbled parts together. That’s where the weakest link will fail ~ the monster dies eventually. The fat lady was already singing in 1985:

    …The A-6E is also experiencing significant structural problems. Cracks in the wings resulting from a shorter than
    predicted fatigue life caused by the aircraft being operated at heavier weights and with higher load factors than were originally anticipated, have resulted in the grounding of 176 of the 344 total A-6E’s in the inventory. Many of the remaining aircraft have been G-limited to prevent further cracks, and service-life estimates have been reduced from
    the 4,400 hours originally projected for the wings to 2,000-3,000 hours. It will require six months to rewing each A-6 at a considerable cost to the government. (11:21) While
    this wing problem is the most dramatic and visible of the A-6E’s maintenance and structural problems, there are numerous others as can be expected in any piece of machinery close to 20 years old.

    Plus, A-6E wise, the re-winging wasn’t happening
    as fast as they needed fully g-capable aircraft. Like this little note from a GWI synopsis:

    15 January 1991 (Tuesday):

    …AIR WAR:

    v US Navy has completely traded out all 3.5G limited A-6E’s from the theater

    And the wings were just ONE thing.

  16. The_Real_JeffS says:

    I’ll go one step further, Skyler, the F22 goes in the wrong direction. Except that’s what the Pentagon pushed, so that’s all we have. I’d rather have a new plane with bugs that can be fixed than an old plane that is effectively one collective bug.
    And it may well be that it comes down to a choice of grounding combat aircraft in the middle of a war, or buying some F22s to cover the gap. I for one wouldn’t care to see an F15 simply fall apart during an attack run in Iraq. It’s not good for morale.

  17. Crusader says:

    Uh, Skyler, the F-15s are being used, just not the -C models like went boom on the poor ANG chap, but the -E’s are also grounded, which are being used, as they are Strike Eagles, supporting the ground-pounders. And yes, we do need the F-22s, as the -C model Eagles have the highest hours on them, as they are an older model than the later E. And even tho the C models have been upgraded with the AESA and helmet mounted sights, they are getting long in the tooth. My next question is, if this grounding lasts for any length of time, what is that going to do to the older (non-Sewer) Hornets? They are racking up hours themselves, and this will not help that.

  18. Crusader says:

    Also, the Bloomberg bit said that the F-15 was no longer in production, but they are off a bit there. Only the C model is no longer in production. They are still making SG and K models, close to our E model.

  19. Crusader says:

    video of the crash site. Hope that is not near where I’ll soon be moving to…….

  20. major dad says:

    UH, Crusader, why do we need the F or F/A-22? We are fighting a fourth generation opponent, not much use for a stealth fighter with limited ground attack capability. Don’t say the Chinese, “never fight a ground war in Asia”.

  21. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Speaking only for myself, it’s not that we “need” the F-22, major dad, it’s more like it’s being crammed down our throat as the next generation weapons platform rivaled only by the “Enterprise ‘E’ “. Ya uses wots ya gots.

  22. Crusader says:

    Interesting post I just read on a aviation board:

    USAF is not telling the whole story…
    Its been a while since posting here, I miss the “heated” debates…
    Anyway, the USAF is saying that “mission critical” aircraft, including those participating overseas in the Middle East theatre and those manning NORAD QRA back in the states are not effected. This is not true, all Eagles, including the Mud Hen, are grounded everywhere. Even Afghanistan and Iraq. Further, the F-15 is no longer manning QRA in the USA in support of noble eagle. How do I know this?? I saw CA ANG F-16s from the 144th FW land @ PDX (portland, Oregon) with live rounds, taxi into the NORAD shelters and assuming the Noble Eagle mission for the resident 142nd FW operating a split inventory of F-15A/B and Cs. My point: This is not going to last a week, this seems to be the beginning of a long process.
    Check it out for yourself:
    And yes, the F-22 lobby is sitting in Raptor heaven right now!

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