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Fly Another Day: 007 back in action

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The legendary fictional British spy character James Bond, "codename 007," has spent his career pursing enemies and foiling plots against his country. After 25 feature films, "007" persistently overcomes adversity. The same can be said about a tried and true fighter jet, as the 142nd Fighter Wing's own "007" returned to action after nearly two years of assessments and repairs.

It was during a routine takeoff May 14, 2013, that the right main tire of the Air Force F-15 Eagle aircraft 84-007 exploded inside the wheel well. The power of the tire burst forced the main gear landing door forward, separating it from the aircraft. As the internal skin lifted from the structure, about 50 rivets were sheared and quickly found their way into the engine fan and compressor.

It was not until a rainy afternoon test flight Oct. 23 that aircraft "007" returned to flying status after some extensive repairs.

"The motor ingested the all those rivets and kept working; it just shows how robust the engines really are," said Lt. Col. Bill Kopp, 142nd Fighter Wing safety officer. "It was only after the plane landed that the ground crew discovered the landing gear door was gone."

In total, the blown tire's final cost would exceed $1.4 million in damages to the aircraft and engine during the 528 days the aircraft was being mended.

The process of trying to determine the cause and solution to the burst tire would begin a long process of reconstruction; with both investigating the cause and reparations to the jet.

"The aircraft sat in the Warner Robins Engineering queue for six months until we got Maj. Paul Granada and Mr. Bob Rice, from Warner Robins [Air Force Base Air Logistics Command] planning got together to get the ball rolling," said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Kohl, 142nd FW Aircraft Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight chief.

As the F-15 Weapons System Consultant for the National Guard Bureau, Rice coordinated the repair strategy with Granada, 142nd FW Maintenance Squadron in Portland.

After inspections and assessments a five person depot team from the Warner Robins depot arrived here in late January and spent two weeks removing both wings from the aircraft. The right wing was removed to facilitate repairs on the intake of the damaged area, and to keep the aircraft balanced on the support jacks, the left wing was also detached.

The damage was unique and highly uncommon for an F-15 aircraft Kohl noted.

"The repairs were outside of our area of expertise and too expensive," Kohl said.

The second team two-person team specializing in structural restoration arrived from Warner Robins in mid-February to begin the next phase of maintenance. When they finished on May 16, they had dedicated nearly 1200 hours to the damages with the intake.

Master Sgt. Dean Wells, 142nd Fighter Wing Aircraft structural maintenance supervisor, was instrumental in monitoring the repair process from start to finish as the impound official.

"There were a few stumbling blocks in the beginning as a team was put together to determine a plan of action," said Wells. "We had never done anything like this on base when it came to the intake skin."

Some parts had to be fabricated, but the major intake skin was only available through The Boeing Company manufacturing line and was identified as a part for the Saudi Advance F-15 airframe, not the F-15C/D models the 142nd flies. Working through supply functions at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and Boeing, Kohl and Roy Tanke, a representative with Boeing were able to secure the new intake skins.

Coincidentally, Wells had depot experience when he worked for seven years with the Saudi Royal Air Force.

"Our team of people [142nd FW] provided support to the depot team from, fabrication to painting parts and all of the operational checks required before the aircraft was really to fly," he said.

During the process of reassembling 84-007, Airmen from the 142nd FW logged nearly 3,000 hours of labor. When the airplane was ready to fly, it was up to one of the Functional Check Flight pilots to do the initial test flight.

"With so many of our pilots at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for Red Flag, Capt. Ryan Shuck was 'lucky enough' to draw the short stick," jokingly said Kopp.

"The structure shop did outstanding work repairing a difficult problem," said Shuck.

As the Chief FCF pilot for the Wing, he noted that not only was the maintenances done correctly, "but everyone did a good job properly documenting it, assuring the entire job was done correctly with precision."

Taking off on the test flight, Shuck wasted no time in pushing the aircraft's capacity, punching through the dark grey sky in full after burners and confirming, just like a James Bond martini, that it's "better to be shaken, not stirred."