Fairford crew gets engine-damaged bomber back on runway
Stars and Stripes March 26, 2008
RAF FAIRFORD — Staff Sgt. Stephen Getten and other maintainers were called to Afghanistan last fall for an interesting mission: to help a damaged B-1B Lancer bomber fly out of harm’s way on three of its four engines.
In August, the fourth engine on the $283 million jet caught fire without enemy contact while on a mission in the war-torn country and had to make an emergency landing at Kandahar Air Base.
Following two weeks of mending by Getten and his team, the three-engine bomber made the long journey to the remote base of RAF Fairford in early October, where they would conduct a second round of repairs.
At Fairford, Getten and his eight-man team from the 654th Combat Logistics Support Squadron said last week that the jet would make a full recovery and could be flown back to its home at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, within two weeks.
“Everything ran pretty smooth,” Getten, a B-1B crew chief, said of the repairs. He then added there were issues with hydraulic and fuel leaks along the way.
Master Sgt. Rickie Gress, the team’s lead production superintendent, is expecting the project to be completed at about half of its original $2 million estimate, he said.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t difficulties.
“Logistically, it’s kind of rough getting supplies,” Gress said of the ongoing project at Fairford. “Usually when we find something is wrong we have to wait a day or two [for parts].
“Generally we find other things to tweak while we’re waiting,” he said about his team from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
Before work could begin at Fairford, the jet sat in an unused hangar for three months until the project was finalized and funding was approved.
Since January, the team has knocked out more than 12,000 maintenance hours on repairs, including replacement of the jet’s right nacelle engine compartment with one salvaged from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s “boneyard” in Arizona, Gress said.
Maj. Shane Peterson, a B-1B pilot from the 10th Flight Test Squadron who flew the bomber to Fairford, also will help fly it back to the States.
“We’re planning to conduct a functional check flight … then hopefully fly it out of here soon after that,” Peterson said.
This isn’t the first time that Peterson and the maintainers have responded to a damaged jet. In the summer of 2006, they traveled to Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean, where a B-1B bomber had a “bobsled” crash on the runway after the crew forgot to lower its landing gear.
That project tallied up to almost $8 million in repairs, Getten said.
“They replaced the nose and both nacelles on the aircraft,” Peterson said of the maintainers’ work. “It took six months to get it ready.”