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OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. | Poor maintenance may be compromising the flight safety of reconnaissance aircraft carrying some of America’s most advanced electronic equipment, according to current and former aircraft mechanics.
The RC-135 aircraft are maintained at Offutt Air Force Base and fly global intelligence-gathering missions. While they are among the oldest in the Air Force’s aging fleet, the planes carry the latest equipment for detecting troop movements, enemy radio transmissions and nuclear emissions.
Top Air Force officials said that the 29 planes — called such names as “Rivet Joint” and “Open Skies” for the types of missions they fly — are properly maintained.
But George Sarris, a senior civilian aircraft mechanic at Offutt with more than 30 years experience, told The Kansas City Star that he has been waging a years-long battle to bring maintenance concerns to light about the RC-135 fleet and became so frustrated that he decided to go public.
“I have found inspections that are 17 years past due, hydraulic and fuel hoses that should have been changed 15 years ago, and recently several emergency system hoses that were 30-plus years past time change,” Sarris said, adding that he believes at least one landing gear assembly also was improperly installed.