Some A-10s Still Grounded

Nearly three months after the Air Force grounded more than one-third of its A-10 fleet due to safety concerns over wing cracks, a sizable portion of the affected aircraft has not been cleared to fly and may not be for a while yet. The Arizona Daily Star reported (requires free registration) last week that, for example, 17 of the 52 A-10s originally pulled from flight operations at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., to undergo inspections and crack repair have yet to return to flight status and might not be available until mid-2009. This is because each aircraft requires a specially tailored fix and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the newspaper said. The down status of these 17 aircraft, which constitute 20 percent of the base’s total fleet of 82 A-10s, has put dozens of student pilots behind schedule in their training and is even making it harder for experienced A-10 pilots to maintain their proficiency, according to the newspaper. “We’re still not flying at normal levels,” Davis-Monthan spokesman SSgt. Jacob Richmond told the newspaper, adding that, “In some fashion or another, all of [the base’s] pilots have felt the effects over the last few months.” The Air Force issued a time compliance technical order on Oct. 3 requiring the immediate inspection and repair of 130 A-10s fitted with comparatively thin-skinned wings after finding an increase in fatigue-related wing cracks. Although the service already has a plan in place with Boeing to replace the wings on more than 200 A-10s before the end of next decade, interim action was necessary to address the cracks before the new wings are installed.