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Mechanics contaminated Air Force One planes, causing $4 million in damage and threat of fire

Air Force

According to Airforce Times . Mechanics from Boeing contaminated the oxygen system on a presidential Air Force One aircraft last April, according to an accident investigation board report released Tuesday.
The contamination to the VC-25A — one of two planes that is known as Air Force One when it carries the president — required $4 million in repairs, which Boeing paid for, the March 6 report said. Had it not been corrected, such contamination could have increased the risk of a fire.
The report said that three Boeing mechanics at a plant in Port San Antonio, Texas, used a contaminated regulator and contaminated tools, parts and components while checking the oxygen system for leaks during regular depot maintenance between April 1 and 10, 2016. They also used an unauthorized cleaning procedure while unsuccessfully trying to sanitize the parts, the report said.

To avoid the chances of a fire breaking out, only “oxygen-clean” tools and components — items that have been cleaned in a specific way to remove any residue that could react when coming into contact with oxygen — can be used on the plane’s oxygen system, according to the report.

Once components are oxygen-cleaned, they can only be exposed to the air for a short amount of time — as little as two to five minutes —,before they must be cleaned again and sealed in a protective package, the report states.

One mechanic gave another mechanic tools and parts to work on the plane, and said they were oxygen-clean. But the second mechanic later learned many of those tools and parts hadn’t been properly cleaned and had been exposed to the air too long.
At one point, the report said, the first mechanic gave the second some cleaning solution and said, “Here [is] some cleaning fluid. Do with it what you want. Use it if you want, but I don’t know anything about it.”
The report said the solution could have been used to clean those tools and parts, but none of the three mechanics were trained or authorized in the proper techniques. Two mechanics then cleaned parts in the wrong way, and connected the passenger oxygen system and the medical oxygen system together with the contaminated parts.
The report said the Boeing depot had fallen behind schedule and wasn’t providing enough oversight over its operations. To try to catch up, the depot’s maintainers — including the three maintainers who worked on Air Force One — had been put on mandatory 12-hour shifts beginning in December 2015. The three maintainers were working six to seven days a week — sometimes working without a day off for weeks at a time.

Boeing’s quality assurance also failed to verify the mechanics were conducting the repairs in the correct way but signed off nevertheless.

All three maintainers had been trained on oxygen cleanliness, the report said, but their actions showed they either did not absorb or retain the information. Three weeks before the mishap, one mechanic went through a training course that emphasized this matter, but the report said this mechanic did not remember taking the recertification training, and the mechanic “failed to observe explicit warnings concerning cleanliness.”
Investigators also expressed their concerns about a lack of experience at Boeing’s San Antonio depot. In 2012, Boeing decided to move its heavy maintenance operation for Air Force One from Wichita, Kansas, to San Antonio, but this move meant 172 Boeing personnel wouldn’t meet the required five-year experience requirement. Boeing requested waivers for those 172 employees in February 2015 — including two of the mechanics involved in the oxygen system contamination — and self-assessed those employees’ relative inexperience would be a low risk.
Boeing spokesman Ben Davis said in a Wednesday interview that the company supported the investigation, and that the report accurately described what happened.
“We took swift action to self-report the incident to the Air Force, and we remediated the oxygen system at no cost to the government,” Davis said. “We fully understand the level of responsibility that comes from working on the president’s aircraft, and we’re committed to our partnership with the Air Force to provide the highest standard of support for the VC-25.”

He is an aviation journalist and the founder of Jetline Marvel. Dawal gained a comprehensive understanding of the commercial aviation industry.  He has worked in a range of roles for more than 9 years in the aviation and aerospace industry. He has written more than 1700 articles in the aerospace industry. When he was 19 years old, he received a national award for his general innovations and holds the patent. He completed two postgraduate degrees simultaneously, one in Aerospace and the other in Management. Additionally, he authored nearly six textbooks on aviation and aerospace tailored for students in various educational institutions. jetlinem4(at)gmail.com

Aerospace

Pakistan’s Ambitious Plan to Acquire and Produce Chinese FC-31 Stealth Fighter

Pakistan’s Ambitious Plan to Acquire and Produce Chinese FC-31 Stealth Fighter

Pakistan is embarking on an ambitious endeavor to bolster its air defense capabilities with the acquisition and potential local production of the Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter jet.

Talks are reportedly underway between the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the developer of the FC-31, signaling a significant leap forward for Pakistan’s military aviation prowess.

The FC-31, a mid-sized, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter, promises advanced air combat capabilities, including stealth technology that surpasses anything currently in the PAF‘s fleet. With plans to retire the JF-17 production line by 2030, the FC-31 could emerge as the new flagship aircraft, offering unmatched performance and versatility.

Experts speculate that Pakistan’s interest in the FC-31 could also signal broader implications for the international market. As China develops both land and carrier versions of the FC-31, analysts foresee it becoming a cost-effective alternative to pricier options like the F-35, potentially challenging the dominance of the US aerospace industry and reshaping global strategic rivalries.

Adding complexity to the deal is China’s push for the WS-13 engine, previously rejected for the JF-17 but now under consideration for both the FC-31 and future JF-17 variants. Engine standardization could streamline logistical and maintenance processes for the PAF, further enhancing the appeal of the FC-31.

While negotiations continue, the success of the FC-31 acquisition and local production hinges on several factors, including the outcome of the WS-13 engine discussions. Pakistan’s pursuit of the FC-31 comes amidst its eagerness to replace its aging fleet, with previous attempts to upgrade its F-16s by the United States due to geopolitical pressures.

Amidst these developments, Pakistan previous interest in the Turkish-made Kaan fifth-generation fighter underscores its eagerness to replace its aging fleet. Despite previous attempts to secure upgrades for its F-16s from the United States, Pakistan’s quest for advanced aerial capabilities has led it to explore alternative avenues, with the FC-31 emerging as a promising contender in its pursuit of air superiority.

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Aerospace

Airbus presents new Wingman concept at ILA Berlin Airshow

Airbus presents new Wingman concept at ILA Berlin Airshow

At the prestigious ILA aerospace trade show in Berlin, Airbus Defence and Space made waves by introducing its pioneering Wingman concept, marking a significant leap forward in military aviation technology.

Teaming up with Helsing, Europe’s leading defense AI and software company, Airbus showcased a framework cooperation agreement aimed at revolutionizing the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) in defense.

Airbus Wingman

The Wingman concept represents a paradigm shift in aerial warfare, introducing unmanned platforms equipped with advanced AI capabilities to augment the capabilities of manned combat aircraft. Pilots in command aircraft such as the Eurofighter command these autonomous drones, positioning them to undertake high-risk mission tasks that would traditionally pose a significant threat to manned-only aircraft.

Central to the Wingman concept is Manned-Unmanned Teaming, wherein manned aircraft serve as “command fighters,” retaining ultimate control over mission decisions while delegating tactical tasks to unmanned systems. This synergistic collaboration promises to enhance mission flexibility, increase combat mass, and minimize risk exposure for pilots, thereby bolstering overall operational effectiveness.

The capabilities of the Wingman extend across a diverse spectrum of mission profiles, ranging from reconnaissance and target jamming to precision strikes against both ground and aerial targets. Equipped with advanced sensors, connectivity solutions, and a diverse array of armaments, the Wingman stands poised to redefine the operational landscape of modern air forces.

While the Wingman model showcased at ILA Berlin represents the pinnacle of current technological innovation, it also serves as a catalyst for future design iterations. As with any pioneering concept, refinement and evolution are inevitable, with each generation of the Wingman poised to push the boundaries of aerial warfare even further.

MQ-28 Ghost Bat

Boeing introduced the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), which made its maiden flight in February 2021. Developed by Boeing Australia, the MQ-28 leverages artificial intelligence to serve as a force multiplier for manned fighter jets.

The Ghost Bat is engineered to operate in tandem with existing military aircraft, enhancing and extending the capabilities of airborne missions. This cost-effective UCAV is designed to work as an intelligent teammate, complementing and amplifying the effectiveness of manned operations in various mission profiles.

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Aerospace

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber
Image:USAF

The United States Air Force (USAF) has unveiled the first photographs of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber in flight.

These images were captured during test flights conducted by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a significant milestone in the development of this sixth-generation aircraft.

Currently undergoing flight tests in California, the B-21 Raider represents the next generation of stealth bombers. With an estimated cost of around $700 million per aircraft, the B-21 Raider is poised to become a crucial component of the USAF’s arsenal for conventional Long Range Strike missions.

According to Air Force briefings, the B-21 Raider will form part of a comprehensive family of systems, encompassing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities, electronic warfare, communication systems, and more. Notably, the bomber will be nuclear-capable and adaptable for both manned and unmanned operations.

It boasts the flexibility to deploy a wide array of stand-off and direct-attack munitions, ensuring versatility in various combat scenarios. One of the B-21’s distinguishing features is its extensive integration of digital technology, as highlighted in discussions held during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Designed with an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider is built to swiftly incorporate emerging technologies, ensuring its effectiveness against evolving threats over time. The B-21 Raider is slated to replace the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, bolstering US national security objectives and providing reassurance to allies and partners worldwide.

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