F-15s Returned to Flight:

Gen. John Corley ordered most of Air Combat Command’s grounded F-15s back into the air Friday night without any new restrictions and recommended that other commands with F-15s do the same. Much of the fleet has been grounded since Nov. 2 of last year, when an F-15C broke in half during a training sortie. Investigators attributed the crash to a cracked longeron to the right rear of the cockpit. The ACC chief said in a statement that based on engineering reports and exhaustive inspections, “I believe we can release and return our F-15s to their important air superiority mission.” The order means that the last 149 F-15A-Ds that were known to have longerons of under-spec thickness can resume flight operations, assuming that all required inspections are performed. Technicians at Warner-Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia have developed additional inspection criteria that will take into account part thickness variations and individual aircraft usage severity and will be used on a recurring basis, according to the ACC statement. The nine that were discovered to have cracked longerons like the mishap aircraft remain grounded. The Air Force hasn’t been decided yet whether they will be fixed. An ACC spokesman said the command will be retiring some F-15A and B models next year anyway, and senior leaders have suggested it might not be economical to replace their longerons if they are leaving the inventory soon. Corley said “the priority in returning these F-15s to flight is to provide combat power for the defense of our nation and, particularly, as an essential component to our nation’s alert force.”