Accident Investigation Board determines maintenance error damaged JSTARS aircraft

The Air Force Materiel Command Accident Investigation Board determines a contractor maintenance depot was the cause of damaged to an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An Air Force Materiel Command Accident Investigation Board determined a contractor maintenance error during depot maintenance caused damage to the radar system of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO -- --

Drain holes in the radome of an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft were left covered after depot maintenance allowing water to accumulate and damage some of the aircraft's electrical systems, according to a recently released Air Force Materiel Command Accident Investigation Board report. AFMC administered the contract while the plane underwent depot maintenance.

The JSTARS aircraft, assigned to the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., underwent programmed depot maintenance at the Northrop Grumman contractor maintenance facility in Lake Charles, La., from March 2015 to July 2016. According to the report, contractor maintenance personnel covered three drain holes in aircraft's radar radome on the belly of the aircraft causing water from washings and rain to collect in the canoe-shaped radome. The water eventually damaged the aircraft's radar antenna and other electrical components, including 240 circuit cards. Total damage is estimated at $7.35 million.

The report concluded that Northrop Grumman maintenance personnel failed to ensure the drain holes were uncovered during an inspection after the aircraft was washed and four pre-flight inspections prior to the plane's return flight to Robins AFB. Upon the aircraft's arrival at Robins, maintenance personnel discovered the damage during a routine inspection.

There were no injuries to any civilian or military personnel and no damage to private property resulting from the damage to the JSTARS.

The E-8C is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting. The JSTARS fleet consists of 16 E-8C aircraft and one E-8A trainer.

Maj. Gen. Warren Berry, Air Force Materiel Command Vice Commander, was the convening authority for the Accident Investigation Board. Col. Matthew Pollock served as the AIB President. The primary purpose of the board was to investigate the cause and contributing factors of the mishap and provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.

The executive summary of the report is available at https://afmc.usaf.afpims.mil/Portals/13/documents/JSTARS AIB Executive Summary.pdf?ver=2017-03-17-123801-447.  For more information contact the AFMC Office of Public Affairs at 937-257-7648.