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Maintenance issues blamed for parts falling off Navy aircraft

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Parts of a Navy aircraft fell off and struck a moving vehicle near Naval Air Facility Atsugi in February because of improper maintenance, Navy officials said Wednesday following the release of an investigation report to the Japanese government.

Maintenance procedures were not followed on the EA-6B Prowler, which shed its port mid-door panel and a port aft tailpipe panel while on landing approach into Atsugi on Feb. 8, according to Navy officials.

“A fastener came loose, which allowed the panels to be pulled off by the wind,” Navy spokesman Jon Nylander said Wednesday.

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The aluminum debris, which landed on both sides of the base fence, struck a vehicle driven by a Japanese man off-base. No injuries were reported.

Following the incident, Atsugi grounded its aircraft and conducted an “operational pause” for two days while reviewing safety procedures.

The incident led to complaints by Japanese civic groups and an apology from Navy officials. The base is surrounded by residential areas and Navy officials have had to respond to complaints over noise and other issues in recent years from local governments and citizens groups.

The Navy has issued reports of pieces falling off planes at Atsugi periodically in recent years.

In February 2011, a sonar buoy typically used for underwater surveillance fell from a Navy SH-60F Seahawk helicopter and crashed into a farm field.

The Prowler involved in the incident has since been replaced, along with the rest of the Prowlers in the previous squadron, with newer EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets. The planes are assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington’s air wing.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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