News Briefs – December 29, 2017


Air Force releases findings of 2016 F-16CM mishap

Pacific Air Forces completed an Accident Investigation Board following a December 2016 aircraft mishap involving an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

The board concluded that the primary cause of the mishap was the left main landing gear of the F-16CM striking debris on the inside Runway 09R (RWY 09R) after landing at Osan AB, causing the collapse of the left main landing gear. The AIB president also found that the poor condition of the runway and an increase in aircraft sorties contributed to the mishap.  The training and quick thinking of the pilot prevented the mishap from becoming a tragedy.

On Dec. 4, 2016, around 5:57 p.m. local time the aircraft pilot approached the runway and successfully lowered the landing gear. The pilot landed on the left side of RWY 09R in accordance with normal procedures. A few seconds later, he felt a “bump” from under the aircraft and noticed the left wing of the aircraft was lower than the right. From the Osan AB control tower, the Supervisor of Flying noticed a bright “flash” from the left side of the aircraft followed by sparks from under the left side of the aircraft. The pilot attempted to use a right roll command to keep the aircraft level but was unable to do so. He determined he was going to depart the prepared runway surface at an unsafe speed and elected to eject from the aircraft in accordance with flight manual procedures.

The F-16CM and pilot were assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Since 1990, their primary mission is to train and participate in a series of exercises to maintain combat readiness for the air defense of South Korea. Osan is a critical base positioned in a strategic position on the Korean peninsula, which warrants a high operation tempo to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

The Accident Investigation Board, comprised of subject matter experts from aviation backgrounds, conducted a thorough review of all available evidence to determine the facts surrounding the mishap to discover the cause and any substantially contributing factors. There is a commitment to a thorough and accurate investigation to ensure that Pacific Air Forces is equipped with the knowledge and procedures to prevent an accident like this to happen again.

N.M. missile range records nearly 5,500 missions in 2017

A southern New Mexico missile testing range has logged nearly 5,500 missions this year.

Those missions include firing missiles and rockets, laser tests and training in F-16 fighter jets on 3,200 square miles of the White Sands Missile Range.

Test center commander Col. Eric Rannow says the missions allow the U.S. military to be prepared at all times with cutting-edge technology.
The U.S. Air Force sponsored almost 1,615 training missions this year, with 458 of those involving the fighter jets.

One of the biggest jobs at the missile range is ensuring that weapons work in the conditions where the military needs them. That means testing in nuclear environments and in varying temperatures.

The test center also has taken missions on the road, doing tests in Europe and the Pacific Ocean. AP

New U.S. airstrike in Somalia kills 13 al-Shabab members

The U.S. military says it has killed 13 members of the al-Shabab extremist group with a new airstrike in southern Somalia.

The statement from the U.S. Africa Command says the strike was carried out the morning of Dec. 24. A spokeswoman says it occurred about 31 miles northwest of Kismayo and that no civilians were killed.

The United States has carried out 34 drone strikes in Somalia this year after the Trump administration expanded military efforts against Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group.

Al-Shabab was blamed for the October truck bombing in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, that killed 512 people. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have left a higher death toll. AP

Wichita, Kansas, may be involved in supersonic jet development

Work on a supersonic business airplane could likely be headed to Wichita, Kansas’ aircraft suppliers.

Aerion Corp. Executive Chairman Brian Barents said this week that it’s probable some of the parts on the company’s $120 million AS2 supersonic business jet will be made by Wichita suppliers.

Barents says he fully expects Wichita’s aviation industry to play a role in the development of the 12-passenger jet.

The Wichita Eagle reports that the AS2 likely will be manufactured by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, which last week announced its agreement with Aerion to work together on a plan to engineer, certify and produce the jet. But Barents says there will be ample opportunity for Wichita suppliers to manufacture parts for the airplane.

The jet is expected to make its first flight in 2023. AP

Spaceport America looks to grow after recording busiest year

Spaceport America in southern New Mexico had one of its busiest years with more than a dozen vertical launches, a pair of balloon flights pulled off by Boeing and flight tests of Virgin Galactic’s mother ship.

All the activity this year demonstrated the spaceport’s potentially magnetic appeal for the commercial space industry, said officials that manage the futuristic facility.

As competition among spaceports is increasing nationally and internationally, the state may need to take more aggressive marketing actions in order to attract more business, the Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday.

Spaceport CEO Dan Hicks said the country has 10 other licensed spaceports with applications pending for nine more. The spaceports are competing in a market that spent some $339 billion in 2016.

“A tremendous amount of money is being invested,” Hicks said. “It’s the next big frontier.”

The space industry continues to change, so Spaceport America needs to stay ahead of that change, Hicks said.

“We have a great customer base and revenue stream now, but we have to grow that foundation,” Hicks said.

The New Mexico facility does have some advantages over others. Spaceport America offers unlimited access from the ground to space because the facility is away from population centers and is located in restricted government airspace. With air traffic congestion becoming a problem in location across the globe, the restricted airspace may become a critical need as the space industry grows.

Spaceport America is located about 30 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences.

The state Spaceport Authority is looking to increase its state funding next year from about $375,000 to $1 million. Some state lawmakers have opposed the idea, pushing for the facility to become self-sustaining.

The spaceport expects to have more income next year without the state’s help as Virgin Galactic’s lease payments for its hangar will increase from $1.8 million to $3 million.

“We need to be out there recruiting companies to not get behind the competition,” Hicks said. AP