Who’s to Blame?

Add “vanishing paperwork” to “vanishing vendors” as another byproduct of the Air Force’s operating an unprecedented old fleet. An improperly made part was to blame for the Nov. 2 crash of an F-15. But who made it? The aircraft was built in 1980 by McDonnell Douglas, and the company was to maintain the Air Force acceptance form, DD250, which it put on microfiche. Then Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas, and there was the Paperwork Reduction Act, leading to missing papers that are making it hard to trace the provenance of the longeron in question. Gen. John Corley, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters yesterday that it’s “premature” to think about liability, especially when the culprit part had been subjected to years more hard stress than it was ever expected to bear. He also thanked Boeing for being forthcoming in helping with the investigation and noted that the company itself discovered the flaw that caused the accident.