F-16s Grounded With Engine Cracks
PHOENIX (AP) _ An investigation into a rash of crashes at the nation’s largest F-16 base has led to the discovery of engine cracks in 17 of the fighter jets, the Air Force said today.
Cracks up to an inch long were found in the jets’ Pratt & Whitney 220 engines, Luke Air Force Base spokeswoman Mary Jo May said.
About 75 percent of the jets have been inspected so far at Luke, which has 190 of the nation’s roughly 400 F-16′s.
``If we find cracks, those engines will not be flown anymore. Those planes will be down until new parts come in,″ May said.
The cracks were found in augmentor ducts that help provide thrust for the engine by forcing air out of the engines’ nozzles. Brig. Gen. John Barry, the base commander, said the cracks have the potential to cause a crash.
All 400 of the nation’s F-16s using the Pratt & Whitney 220 engine were grounded for a few days in March following what was the fifth F-16 crash at Luke in six months.
Barry said earlier inspections failed to find the cracks because the equipment used could not detect them. The Pentagon provided an enhanced dye and blacklight that outlined the cracks, he said.
The affected engines were designed in the 1970s. Since then, Pratt & Whitney has come out with an updated version of the engine _ the F100-PW-229. A company spokesman said the new engine has higher reliability.
``The Air Force has never lost an F-16 equipped with a 229 engine,″ Pratt spokesman Tim Burris said.
The F-16s patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq and flying in the Kosovo airstrikes do not use the Pratt 220 engine.