An Airbus Military A330-based Multirole Tanker Transport bound this month for delivery to the United Arab Emirates lost its refueling boom during a checkout flight over Spain.
The incident occurred Sept. 10 at about 7:30 p.m. local time. No one on the ground or in the flight crew was injured. An Airbus Military spokesman says the boom separated cleanly at a mechanical joint, leaving minimal damage to the actual aircraft.
The aircraft was flying at around 27,000 ft. in altitude over Ceres, Spain, near the Portuguese border when the incident occurred. The boom has since been located on the ground.
The small A330-based fleet has not been grounded worldwide. Australia, the only country that is operating the system, has been advised not to use the boom. But that nation is able to use its hose and drogue system, the official says.
Airbus Military officials have not yet said whether the boom was extended at the time of the incident, though it was not likely in the stowed position when it fell from the fuselage.
This is the second major boom incident for the A330-based refueler. The first took place in January 2011 as an Australian tanker was refueling a Portugese F-16 during flight testing over water; the boom was not recovered. During that incident, officials found that the boom was being operated “close to the edge of the envelope.” Engineers have since installed a warning system for the boom operator.
In the most recent incident, the pilot did not declare an emergency and he was able to return to Getafe, where the company’s flight testing operations are based. The aircraft will be repaired. Although it will be delivered late to the UAE, the Airbus Military official says repairs will not take long. Two other tankers ordered by the country are also set to be delivered in the coming months.
Four tankers have been delivered to Australia as well as a single aircraft to the U.K., which uses a centerline retractable hose system instead of a boom. A single Saudi Arabia tanker has been completed but has not yet entered operations.
Source: AW, Amy Butler
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