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Eagle Update

f15.jpgYesterday's discussion was lively and (most of the time) informed, so I wanted to get this update posted right away (since these facts have already crept into the last post's comments). Here's the salient truths currently in Military.com's headlines:

"The accident investigation board president (Wignall) found, by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of this accident was a failure of the upper right longeron, a critical support structure in the F-15C aircraft," the report says.

About 20 minutes after takeoff from an airfield near St. Louis on Nov. 2, the forward fuselage of Maj. Stephen Stilwell's $42 million F-15C Eagle shook violently and then broke apart 18,000 feet above the ground. Stilwell, his left shoulder dislocated and his left arm shattered, barely had time to safely eject as pieces of his aircraft tumbled from the sky over the Missouri countryside.

More troubling, however, are the results of a parallel examination finding as many as 163 of the workhorse aircraft also have flawed support beams, or longerons. The aircraft remain grounded as the Air Force continues to search for how serious the problem is and whether extensive, costly repairs are needed. Another 19 of the aircraft have yet to be inspected and also remain grounded.

Nearly 260 of the A through D model F-15s, first fielded in the mid-1970s, were returned to flight status Tuesday following fleet-wide inspections.

Kudos to the Air Force investigators for finding the problem in a hurry. At the same time, these amazing fighters aren't getting any younger. There'll be more groundings to come, no doubt; hopefully they won't be as a result of a mishap.

-- Ward

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