Military Aviation

THE U.S. NAVY RETURNS A FIRE DAMAGED F/A-18 SUPER HORNET BACK TO THE FLEET 7 YEARS AFTER SUFFERING IN-FLIGHT FIRE

About 11,000 manhours were devoted to the repairs and servicing of the aircraft

On Dec. 8, 2016 the U.S. Navy has managed to return a fire-damaged F/A-18 Super Hornet back to the fleet for the first time.

The aircraft, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron One Two Two (VFA-122), made an arrested landing in Aug. 2009 at Naval Air Weapons Systems China Lake after experiencing an in-flight engine fire.

No injuries were sustained.

According to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) F/A-18 planner and estimator Mark Thaidigsman the fire occurred in the aircraft’s right engine bay and that at the time of the incident, the Super Hornet had only 2,183 flight hours on it.

“The aircraft was disassembled in China Lake and sent on a flatbed truck to North Island in April 2010,” he explained. “The door 68 was burn damaged. The aft nozzle skin was burn damaged and there were a couple of stiffeners on the center keel that needed to be replaced. We also had to replace the fire bottle, fire warning elements and some other burnt wiring.”

Overall, about 11,000 manhours were devoted to the repairs and servicing of the aircraft.

“The most challenging thing was getting the material to repair the aircraft. The long lead times made it difficult to coordinate the staffing and tooling that were needed to perform the repairs. It also created a substantial cost to preserve the aircraft while it was waiting for parts, and there was a late discovery of damage (to the aircraft) that occurred during shipping,” Thaidigsman said.

FRCSW is currently repairing two other fire-damaged Super Hornets: one that also suffered an engine fire and the other a fire in its aircraft mounted accessory device (AMAD) bay. The aircraft are slated for completion in Jul. and Sept. respectively.

VFA-122 is the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) for the F/A-18 A-D Legacy Hornet and the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. Based at NAS Lemoore, CA, the squadron trains aircrew and maintenance personnel to fly & fix the “Hornet” and the “Rhino”.

Pictured is the right engine bay of a VFA-122 F/A-18 Super Hornet where fire broke out in August 2009, causing an arrested landing of the aircraft at Naval Air Weapons Systems China Lake. FRCSW artisans and engineers repaired the Super Hornet and returned it to the fleet this past December.

Photo credit: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain / U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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