Air Force grounds C141 transport planes after wing failure in Memphis
Sunday, December 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ The U.S. Air Force grounded all C141s Saturday after a wing on one of the transport planes collapsed as it refueled at Memphis International Airport, spilling 9,000 gallons of jet fuel.
The order from Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., affects 99 C141s in service worldwide, spokesman Lt. Col. Tom LaRock said.
The order was given as a precautionary measure until engineers could determine whether the wing failure reflected a problem involving the entire fleet, or just the single plane. It came as a team of engineers from Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia was headed to Memphis to examine the damaged transport.
It was not known when the Air Force would return its fleet of C141s to the air.
The Air Force has not used the C141 in Afghanistan, relying instead on the roomier and more responsive C17, but the grounding nonetheless was expected to put a strain on domestic operations as the nation continues its war on terrorism.
``The C141 is still an integral part of our airlift capability,'' LaRock said.
The wing collapsed Friday night as the plane was undergoing routine refueling. The plane was headed for Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Details on its mission were not immediately available.
One airman suffered a fractured leg while another was treated for a strained shoulder, the Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal reported. The spilled fuel flowed into a storm drain, but crews sealed it off before the fuel could reach Nonconnah Creek.
Lt. Col. Lamar Spencer, executive officer of the 164th Airlift Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard, estimated the damaged C141 to be 28 to 30 years old.
``It's the most bizarre thing that I've ever been associated with,'' Spencer said. ``Obviously, we don't know the cause.''
The Air Force relies on its fleet of C141s to transport troops and equipment both domestically and overseas. It began using the aircraft in the 1960s and once had up to 270 in its fleet, but it plans to phase out the aircraft by 2006 and replace it with the C17.