Air force grounds transport, refueling planes over January accident
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Air force grounds transport, refueling planes over January accident

IDF says decision to keep aircraft from undertaking training flights is due to civilian contractor Aerospace Industries’ failure to uphold safety standards

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli air force Lockheed C-130 Hercules. June 28 2011 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
Israeli air force Lockheed C-130 Hercules. June 28 2011 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

The head of the Israeli Air Force grounded the military’s fleet of transport and refueling planes for training flights on Thursday due to what the military said was a civilian contractor’s failure to properly maintain them.

The decision came after an accident in January in which a C-130 Hercules cargo plane rolled approximately 100 meters into a ditch during an engine check, lightly injuring the two civilian workers carrying out the test.

The military’s C-130 cargo transport planes, known in Hebrew as the Karnaf, and the Boeing 707 refueling plane, known as the Re’em, are maintained by the government-owned Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), not by the air force itself.

The two models were grounded for training and exercise flights until further notice, though they will still be used for operations.

.Three F-15s refueling from a Boeing 707 during a 2010 air show (Photo credit: Ofer Zidon/ Flash 90)
Three F-15s refueling from a Boeing 707 during a 2010 air show (Ofer Zidon/Flash 90)

A probe into the incident was carried out by the air force, along with a representative from IAI, and presented to its commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, and an investigatory committee this week, the army said in a statement.

The investigation found that the IAI maintenance workers performed the engine test in January incorrectly, in a way that did not adhere to air force safety standards, and that the accident was preventable, the military said.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the workers failed to properly engage the brakes during the test and “incorrectly operated the emergency systems.”

In addition to the investigation into the crash itself, the air force said it conducted a spot check of IAI’s performance on the base in which the accident occurred and found that “the level of professionalism was inadequate and that the air force codes, which IAI is contractually required to uphold, are not being fulfilled.”

The review noted failures to properly document and track work, as well as poor management of tools and equipment, the army said.

“In light of the findings that were presented to the investigatory committee and in light of a recommendation by the head of the air force’s equipment squadron, Brig. Gen. Shimon Zenziper, the head of the air force ordered the fleet of Karnaf and Re’em aircraft, which are maintained by Israeli Aerospace Industries, to be grounded for training flights,” the IDF said.

In addition, Norkin called for Zenziper to work with IAI to “immediately put together a plan to address the gaps that arose, in accordance with the contract and the accepted standards of the air force.”

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