Safety review casts light on ageing aircraft

The US Air Force’s concern about flight safety of its aircraft has led to all flying units being required to complete a one-day safety review, which the active-duty Air Force completed in May–June and the Air National Guard and Reserve completed by June 26. Press reports have stated the rate of fatal air accidents had reached a six-year high and overall trends show an upturn in accident rates.

Press reports also identified that units that have been experiencing problems include the 55th Wing based at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

The 55th Wing operates 29 four-engine aircraft, including Boeing RC-135V and RC-135W Rivet Joint, RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135U Combat Sent, WC-135 Constant Phoenix, TC-135 Rivet Joint trainers and the OC-135 Open Skies aircraft. The 55th Wing’s force of complex, ageing aircraft that are operated at a high operational tempo on missions of national importance have made its situation particularly difficult. Since 2015, the 55th has had to cut short over 500 missions, a total of about 9% of those flown in the past two years, averaging over 80 inflight emergencies and aborted flights per year. David C Isby