John McCain: 1936-2018

John S. McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, presidential candidate, Vietnam War POW, and naval aviator, died of brain cancer Aug. 25, just days short of his 82nd birthday. The self-styled “maverick” politician prided himself on “straight talk” and national service, swinging between doctrinaire conservatism and reaching across the aisle to collaborate with Democratic colleagues on bipartisan legislation. He frequently tussled with the Air Force, working to derail an early plan to replace aging KC-135 tankers, attacking USAF leaders over their proposals to retire the A-10 “Warthog,” and complaining of excessive secrecy on the B-21 bomber. He also feuded with Donald Trump, criticizing the President’s accommodating tone and words for Russian leader Vladimir Putin while decrying that Trump’s planned revitalization of the US military didn’t go far enough. McCain will lie in state in the Arizona Statehouse and the US Capitol, an honor not afforded another lawmaker since 2012. There is bipartisan discussion of re-naming the Russell Senate Office building for McCain. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

Chapman Promoted, Celebrated at Memorial Ceremony

TSgt. John Chapman, the service’s first recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions since Vietnam, was posthumously promoted during a Friday ceremony at the Air Force Memorial. Chapman, now a master sergeant, was killed during the Battle of Takur Ghar in March 2002, fighting until his death to protect a quick reaction force in a helicopter atop an Al Qaeda-held mountaintop. “John chose to go, he chose to fight on, he chose to give his life for his teammates,” CMSAF Kaleth Wright said during the ceremony. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.

AIB Found Equipment Failure Led to Fatal T-38 Crash

An accident investigation board found that equipment failure and a number of contributing factors caused the fatal T-38 crash near Del Rio, Texas, last November. Capt. Paul Barbour, an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron, was killed in the Nov. 20, 2017, crash while another instructor pilot sustained minor injuries after ejecting. The investigation found a failure in the mounted gearbox on the left engine resulted in the loss of the left alternating current generator and hydraulic pump. While maneuvering to final approach, after coordinating for immediate landing at JBSA-Laughlin, Texas, the two pilots discovered more failed electrical systems and failure of the right engine hydraulic pump and right airframe mounted gearbox. This caused “total hydraulic failure” making the aircraft unrecoverable, according to the report. The crew’s only option was ejection, although they delayed taking that step because they were over a populated area, the report said. The AIB president determined the cause of the incident was dual airframe mounted gearbox failure, adding that a substantial contributing factor to these failures was lack of maintenance guidance addressing “similar repeated failures” of the aircraft. The AIB president also found the fatal injuries to the pilot were caused by the crew’s “failure to complete the before takeoff checklist item that called for the proper ejection seat system settings.” The report pointed to “task misprioritization, checklist interference, instrumentation and sensory feedback systems, and the delayed decision to eject,” as substantial contributing factors. —Steve Hirsch

Senate Passes Defense Appropriations Legislation

The Senate on Thursday passed a major spending bill, including $675 billion in defense spending approved by the Appropriations Committee last month. The 85-7 Senate vote, after 5 p.m. Thursday, came on “minibus” legislation that also included appropriations for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies. Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) applauded the passage in a statement, calling the spending package “extremely important” to US security and prosperity. “For the first time in a dozen years, we are in a position to send a defense appropriations bill to the President on time—one that continues to rebuild our military and gives them the support they deserve,” he said. –Steve Hirsch

Leadership Changes

The Senate has confirmed Air Force Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller for a fourth star and assignment as commander of Air Mobility Command, making her the first traditional Reservist to lead a major command. She will replace retiring Gen. Carlton Everhart in a Sept. 7 change of command ceremony. The Senate also confirmed three other Air Force nominations last week, including that of Maj. Gen. Chris Weggeman to be lieutenant general and deputy commander of ACC. Weggeman was commander of the 24th Air Force and Air Forces Cyber at JBSA-Lackland, Texas. Brig. Gen. Steven Schaick also was confirmed to be major general and chief of chaplains.

Bird Strike on F-35 Reported at Eglin

The same day that the nose gear on an F-35A strike fighter collapsed at Eglin AFB, Fla., another F-35 experienced a bird strike. The Wednesday bird strike, which was first reported by the Northwest Florida Daily News and confirmed by Air Force Magazine Friday, occurred just after 12:00 p.m., just under an hour before the second F-35 experienced an in-flight emergency and was forced to return to the base. That aircraft was photographed nose-down on the flight line. The bird strike occurred on completion of a training mission, 33rd Fighter Wing spokesperson 1st Lt. Savannah Stephens said by email. Maintenance personnel determined the aircraft was not damaged, although samples from the inspection will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution “to identify bird species and assist in migration pattern analysis,” she said, adding that bird strikes “are a frequent occurrence in aviation.” Pilots were not injured in either instance. —Steve Hirsch

Canadian Officer to Lead NATO Iraq Mission

Canadian Army Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin has been selected to lead the new NATO mission to Iraq, NATO and Canada announced Wednesday. Fortin, who currently serves as the commander of the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters in Kingston, Ont., will assume command of the training and capacity-building mission, scheduled to start later this year. The mission, launched at the July NATO summit in Brussels in response to an Iraqi request, will include about 600 NATO personnel, with up to 250 Canadian service members among them, according to a DOD release. It is aimed at building on NATO training efforts as Iraqi forces work to head off the reemergence of ISIS and other terrorist groups. It will include hundreds of trainers and will involve establishment of military schools aimed at increasing Iraqi forces’ professionalism. Fortin previously served as the deputy commanding general for operations at the US 1st Corps at JB Lewis-McChord, Wash. —Steve Hirsch


—The Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the “Hurricane Hunters,” began flying into Hurricane Lane last week, helping the Central Pacific Hurricane Center adjust its forecast for the storm, which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit Hawaii: USAF release.

—F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., is test military family housing for lead after a child’s blood was found to have elevated levels of lead exposure: Military Times.

—Officials at Cannon AFB, N.M., will inspect the base’s drinking water to ensure it was not contaminated from previous firefighting activities, though they maintain the water is safe: Associated Press.