Attrition: Curing the Unflyable


May 16, 2007: The U.S. Air Force has been able to avoid a lot of damage repair over the last decade, because so many squadrons have been disbanded in the wake of the Cold Wars end in 1991. If an aircraft had an accident, there were extra aircraft available as replacements. The damaged aircraft, depending on how bad off it was, was either scrapped or put into storage. But sometimes, damaged aircraft were restored to service, if only to give the maintenance personnel some practice. Such was the case recently with an F-16, that was damaged when it collided with a parked aircraft. This happened during the 2003 Iraq invasion, when the F-16 lost control (due to a mechanical failure) during landing. The damage was not extensive, but it made the aircraft unflyable. The aircraft was partly disassembled and brought back to the United States. Two years ago, an air force depot maintenance unit had the time to do the repairs, and did the job, over the last two years, replacing about fifty damaged components. The cost was about $1.1 million, but it put a $30 million aircraft back into service.

The air force is spending more and more on aircraft maintenance, as the aircraft get older, and wear and tear make it necessary to replace more worn out components. There also a steady flow of work from about 5,000 incidents a year of bird strikes (which often just mean replacing windows or canopies, or wherever the bird hit). There are also incidents of aircraft bumping into each other while on the ground.


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