A potential flaw in the cartridge-actuated devices (CADs) used to trigger ejection seats has grounded hundreds of military aircraft, including the US Air Force’s T-38 Talons and T-6 Texan IIs by “excess of caution”, according to service officials.
The devices are used in ejection seats manufactured by Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd., which notified the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Head Indian Division (NSWC IHD) of the potential defect. NSWC IHD supplies the devices for Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.
Concern over the possible defect prompted the Air Force Air Education and Training Command (AETC) to retire 203 T-38s supersonic jet trainers and 76 single-engine T-6s primary trainers used for Air Force undergraduate pilot (UPT) training until safety inspections can be performed.
“Each aircraft contains multiple explosive cartridges as part of a redundant system. Out of an abundance of caution, the 19th Air Force has ordered T-38 and T-6 operations to be completed July 27 while our maintenance and logistics teams investigate the matter further,” a 19th Air Force spokesperson said. Air Force, the command responsible for aircrew training. , Told FLYING in a report.
After consulting with the manufacturer, Air Force Materiel Command was able to identify specific product lot numbers to inspect, the service said. As a result, approximately 40% of the T-38 fleet and approximately 15% of T-6 aircraft were removed from service at UPT bases and Naval Air Station Pensacola for inspection.
The plane will remain on the ground until the ejection seats are confirmed to be fully functional, the AETC said.
The Navy and Marine Corps also grounded some training aircraft that use ejection seats manufactured by Martin-Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd., according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Naval Air Systems Command said it began shipping authorized spares earlier this week for affected fixed-wing aircraft, including the F/A-18B/C/D Hornet, F/A- 18E/F Super Hornet, the E/A-18G Growler, the T-45 Goshawk and the F-5 Tiger II trainer.
“After being informed of [the] potential defect by supplier, Martin Baker, the team used validated x-ray procedures to scan available inventory to verify each item was properly manufactured before sending to the fleet to replace existing CADs,” did he declare.
NAVAIR did not say how many Navy and Marine Corps aircraft were affected by the issue.
Aircrew safety is a “primary concern” and “it is imperative that they have confidence in our equipment,” said 19th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Craig Wills.
“We will not return aircraft affected by this issue to the flight schedule until we are sure their evacuation systems are fully functional,” he said. “Our instructor pilots perform an incredibly important and demanding mission every day, and we owe them safe and reliable aircraft.”