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The Military

Mechanic's Mistake Trashes $244 Million Aircraft 428

Hugh Pickens writes "An accident report is finally out for the Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Targeting and Attack Radar System that had started refueling with a KC-135 on on March 13, 2009 when the crew heard a 'loud bang throughout the midsection of the aircraft.' Vapor and fuel started pouring out of the JSTARS from 'at least two holes in the left wing just inboard of the number two engine.' The pilot immediately brought the jet back to its base in Qatar where mechanics found the number two main fuel tank had been ruptured, 'causing extensive damage to the wing of the aircraft.' How extensive? 25 million dollars worth of extensive. What caused this potentially fatal and incredibly expensive accident to one of the United States' biggest spy planes? According to the USAF accident report, a contractor accidentally left a plug in one of the fuel tank's relief vents (PDF) during routine maintenance. 'The PDM subcontractor employed ineffective tool control measures,' reads the report. Tool control measures? 'You know, the absolutely basic practice of accounting for the exact location of every tool that is used to work on an airplane once that work is finished.' Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz just told Congress, 'there is a JSTARS platform that was damaged beyond economical repair that we will not repair.' So, if this is the one Schwartz is talking about, then one mechanic's mistake has damaged a $244 million aircraft beyond repair."

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