Not a Serious SLEP-Up

The F-16C Block 50 aircraft slated to get a 12,000-hour full-scale durability or “torture” test in preparation for a service life extension of some F-16s in the fleet recently offered a surprise to Lockheed Martin engineers inspecting it. They found “the left wing was installed onto the aircraft post-production,” said Richard Essary, an Air Force spokesman at Hill AFB, Utah. Officials had picked this airframe, 91-0409, as a representative example of the Block 40/42-Block 50/52 inventory because they thought it had all original equipment and had only racked up about 3,800 hours. But not to worry, said Essary, quoting F-16 program managers; the test can go forward, and no delay of the F-16 SLEP should result. “Many flying units . . . swap aircraft parts in order to meet flying schedules and/or real-world missions,” he told the Daily Report on Sept. 13. This is “not an unusual occurrence,” and “therefore, the wing mismatch is indeed representative of the fleet,” he said. Lockheed Martin will take account of the newer wing with “specific flight-load criteria” and has “updated the overall test spectrum,” said Essary. Testers will take advantage of the situation to see if there’re any structural implications of wing mismatches throughout the fleet, he noted.