posted on Sep, 10 2009 @ 02:38 PM
This one goes back to the "oops" thread that can be found here in this forum, but where most of those were funny, this one almost cost a valuable
asset and crew (and possibly a KC-135 too).
E-8C 93-0597 was flying a mission in the AOR (Iraq/Afghanistan), launching from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, on 13 March 09. During an in-flight
refueling the crew heard a loud bang, and felt a shudder in the air frame. The pilot disconnected from the tanker to assess the aircraft. They found
nothing wrong, and connected back to the tanker. The KC-135 crew noticed fuel streaming from the aircraft and alerted the pilots of the E-8.
The Aircraft Commander sent a crew member back to try to see anything where the fuel was streaming, and was notified of several holes in the left
wing, inboard of #2 engine. The AC returned to Al Udeid and landed safely. The ground crew discovered severe damage to the left wing, and several
large holes around the inboard fuel tank area.
Upon further investigation, they discovered that when the aircraft had recently gone through PDM (Programmed Depot Maintenance) a civilian employee
had left a test plug in the fuel vent system.
The last time an aircraft that went through PDM and had a plug left in the fuel vent system, it was a C-141 that was refuelling in Nashville, and the
entire left wing blew off the airframe. This could have very easily happened here too, and if they were attached to the boom when it happened, it
could have easily resulted in serious loss of life and the loss of both airframes. The E-8C carries a crew of 19-22, and the KC-135 normally carries
a crew of 4-5 or more.