Cracks in two F/A-18s lead to fleet inspection
July 16, 2009
The following correction to a follow-up to this story was posted July 23: A July 22 story updating ongoing inspections of a fastener problem on F/A-18 Hornet aircraft should have said that the Navy’s preliminary analysis indicated the failures were due to a manufacturing problem rather than engineering.
ARLINGTON, Va. — Navy maintenance crews found cracks in two Navy F/A-18 Hornet jet aircraft last week, and on Friday the Navy ordered quick inspections of nearly its entire fleet, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
Navy officials said the cracks could affect control of the aircraft and called them "a safety-in-flight risk," Lt. Clay Doss said.
The aircraft models affected were ordered to undergo maintenance within 25 flight hours, but Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md., did not ground the planes.
The cracks appeared on the "horizontal stabilator actuator support fittings," known as the "bootstraps."
"The bootstraps are part of the bones of the aircraft," Doss said.
They’re located just forward from where the horizontal tail wing — which steers the planes — is attached to the airframe.
A fastener was missing on three aircraft, including the two with cracks, which the Navy believes may have caused excessive stress to the component.
"It’s probably an engineering defect. That’s what preliminary analysis is indicating," Doss said.
The Navy bills Hornets as the key strike fighter used in Afghanistan and Iraq, able to fly three times as many hours as other Navy tactical aircraft with half the maintenance time. Hornets perform a variety of roles, from fighter escorts to reconnaissance to close-air support.
The cracks were detected as engineers performed scheduled high-flight hour inspections of older models, part of the Service Life Extension Program. The order applies to 622 F/A-18s.