F-22 Raptor crash at Eglin highlights Air Force landing gear problems

Airmen began posting an image of an F-22 Raptor with its nose cone buried in the ground at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida on Tuesday afternoon after the plane apparently crashed landing gear earlier in the morning.

Although the image has not been verified, a statement from the 96th Test Wing in Eglin confirmed that the incident occurred while landing around 10 a.m. and emergency crews rushed to the premises immediately.

“The pilot was transported to flight medicine for an evaluation,” the statement from Eglin said. “An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident is ongoing.”

Read more : F-22 has an in-flight emergency and ends up swooping down on Florida base

Tuesday’s incident highlights some longstanding issues with the F-22’s landing gear and also follows a report released earlier this month that showed faulty landing gear springs were at risk. the origin of a high-profile incident with a B-2 Spirit bomber in Missouri last year. .

Mackenzie Eaglen, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in military readiness, said mechanical problems such as those experienced by the F-22 at Eglin this week and the B-2 bomber last year cause serious problems. to strength.

“There is a link between the age of planes requiring more maintenance resulting in reduced flight hours,” Eaglen said. “It is the smallest and oldest air force in history.”

In last year’s budget request, the Air Force wanted to reduce flight time by about 87,500 hours due to the high costs associated with maintaining many aging aircraft.

The pilot involved in Tuesday’s incident in Eglin was medically cleared and released the same day, according to the base. The pilot was on a routine training mission, but no further details were provided.

A nearly identical incident occurred with an F-22 at Eglin last year, when a pilot suffered an in-flight emergency and the nose landing gear malfunctioned, causing it to dive the nose cone in the ground on the runway.

After this crash, Eglin’s F-22 Raptors—and 10% of the fleet at other bases—were inspected. Air Combat Command found that one in five of these jets had improperly rigged landing gear. Nearly 40 of them had to be repaired.

“Thirty-seven aircraft have been retooled in accordance with the single inspection,” Air Combat Command said in a statement last year. “The program office continues to explore potential root causes.”

Besides, Air Force Security Center data shows that five Raptors had crashes in 2021, costing taxpayers more than $600,000 each.

The F-22’s misadventures come after the Air Force was forced to move Tyndall’s fleet to Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in 2018, splitting the planes between Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

In addition to the F-22 incident this week, more details emerged in an Air Force Global Strike Command report showing what went wrong when a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber ran off the runway. from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri last year.

The plane, assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron of the 509th Bomb Wing, was also known as The Spirit of Georgia, and a photo of Whiteman’s crash on September 14 last year has been widely shared on the networks social due to the shocking image of the massive plane crashing into the ground.

The two pilots involved in the incident are unharmed.

The report, released on March 17, said the damage estimate to the plane was around $10 million, but further investigation is still needed. Each bomber costs more than a billion dollars.

Air Force Col. Robert Cocke, chairman of the Board of Inquiry, detailed in the report that the crash likely occurred because the landing gear lock springs failed to provide a ” sufficient pressure” to maintain a locked position.

No error was attributed to the pilot or the crew. But the report states that “there is no requirement for routine replacement of the locking link springs”. The last time the bomber underwent extensive maintenance was in 2014, according to investigators.

— Thomas Novelly can be contacted at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: B-2 left the runway at Whiteman during an emergency landing

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