Air Force News

Stealth fighters resume flying operations

Released: Oct 8, 1997

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force resumed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter flying operations Oct. 2 after initiating a fleetwide safety inspection. The commander of Air Combat Command had directed a precautionary fleet stand down following the F-117 mishap at the Chesapeake Air Show, Maryland, Sept 14.

Physical evidence found in the crash debris revealed a significant defect in a support structure in the left wing of the accident aircraft. Based on this discovery, the ACC commander directed a thorough inspection of every F-117 in the fleet to determine if the defect noted in the mishap aircraft existed in any other aircraft. Of the 33 aircraft inspected to date, no other F-117 has been found to have the same defect.

The inspections are being conducted by Air Force F-117 experts and maintainers, teamed with engineers from the F-117's manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin. Besides searching for the specific defect noted in the accident aircraft, inspection teams are looking for other defects and deficiencies that might exist. No F-117 will fly until the inspections are completed and any deficiencies are corrected.

"We are confident this inspection process will result in safe and totally airworthy aircraft," said Gen. Richard E. Hawley, ACC commander. "We will not jeopardize the lives of our pilots or anyone on the ground nor risk the safety of the F-117s. So far, the discrepancy in the accident aircraft appears to be an anomaly, but each and every airplane will undergo this extensive inspection before we return it to the skies."

Two F-117s flew Oct. 2 from their home base at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. By that date, a total of six fighters had been determined to be flyable. Inspections will continue until all 53 Nighthawks are deemed safe and airworthy.