NC - Engine problems ground Harriers with 26th MEU : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2000 NC - Engine problems ground Harriers with 26th MEU Thrust insufficient for flight BY TRISTA TALTON ENC FREEDOM

HAVELOCK -- Another round of groundings has cut Cherry Point's fleet of night-vision capable AV-8B Harriers from 52 to five considered safe to fly.

Two of the three operational Harriers deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are affected by this latest grounding. Two other Harriers with the MEU were grounded in July.

Originally, 107 Harriers equipped with the FF402-RR-408 engines were grounded in July after concerns over those engines arose. In mid-August, 45 Harriers were returned to service.

Less than one month later, in early September, nine aircraft lifted from the flight restriction were grounded again.

"Of those (remaining) 36, 18 were regrounded," said Staff Sgt. Keith Milks with Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington.

Marine Corps officials ordered this latest restriction Friday after a 408-engine-equipped Harrier experienced problems.

"One of the aircraft being prepared for flight experienced a failure of the primary and back-up engine variable inlet control system," Milks said.

Translation: The engine had insufficient thrust to fly.

"They found that 17 others were affected by the same problem," Milks said. "The engineering investigation is under way right now."

Grounding of the 107 aircraft in July was prompted after investigators determined a problem with the No. 3 bearing contributed to a June 21 Harrier crash in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The pilot, who was conducting a training exercise, was not injured, but the aircraft was destroyed. Engineers say damage to the bearing was caused during rework assembly in October 1998.

Marine Corps officials called for the September groundings because of similar problems with the No. 3 bearing.

Now, 20 Harriers based at Cherry Point are deemed safe for flight. Fourteen of those -- 10 equipped with the FF402-RR-406 engine and four with the 408s -- are available to certified pilots. The remaining aircraft safe for flight belong to the training squadron. About 20 pilots are assigned to each of the three Marine Attack Squadrons and the training squadron.

"We have three simulators. One radar simulator and two day-attack simulators, and what we try and do is keep them flying at least once or twice a month and in the simulators as frequently as possible," said First Lt. Stuart Fugler with base public affairs. "In the meantime, they're focusing on the ground side of training."

The current repair rate is 10 Harrier engines per month. At that rate, it could be as long as seven months before all the aircraft are back in the air.

-- Doris (, October 12, 2000

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