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Aircrew safety. (Monthly Award Winners).

Award of Distinction

On Jan. 15 2003, an RC-135W crew was on station for an operational sortie out of Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Approximately 2.5 hours into the mission, the Aircraft Commander (AC) noticed a steady illumination of the #3 Reverser Operating light with no indication of associated yaw or correction by the autopilot. This was highly unusual as the #2 and #3 thrust reversers had been physically deactivated. The AC directed the Instructor Tactical Coordinator (ITC) to proceed to the rear of the aircraft to visually inspect the #3 engine for any indication of thrust reverser activation. At this time, the ITC was unable to visually detect any abnormal engine configuration. The AC disengaged the auto-throttles and retarded the #3 throttle to idle while the copilot consulted the Dash One. The Navigator ensured the aircraft remained on-station and on-course while the pilots ran the checklist for "Engine In-flight Thrust Reversal!' Upon advancing the #3 throttle in accorda nce with step four of the checklist, the crew immediately noticed a sudden yaw and roll. This was accompanied by significant airframe buffeting. The AC immediately shut down the malfunctioning engine. The ITC once again visually inspected the #3 engine and confirmed that the engine now appeared to be in the reverse thrust configuration.

After ensuring a proper engine shutdown, the crew coordinated with Command and Control for a descent and RTB. While en route to PSAB, the crew declared the in-flight emergency. The crew accomplished the "Fuel Dump Checklist," normal and emergency checklists, and checked landing weather. The AC briefed the crew on the approach and his plan to taxi clear of the runway to await inspection by fire department personnel. Due to increased crosswinds (220 17G22 for RWY 17) and blowing dust, the AC elected to fly the precision ILS approach to reduce the possibility of an engine-out go-around and mitigate the crosswind risks. A normal ILS was successfully flown, the aircraft was inspected by the Fire Chief, and the emergency was terminated. Post-flight inspection revealed that the deactivated thrust reverser's aft sleeve hook safety wire had failed. This resulted in the hook losing hold on the TR sleeve, and allowed the thrust reverser to deploy unexpectedly. Given the highly unusual nature of this emergency, the preci se analysis and professional airmanship displayed by the crew were essential to recover a highly valuable asset from an extremely hazardous condition. Crew Resource Management, aircrew training, sound judgment, and flight discipline all played major roles in the safe return of 23 personnel and a $250 million reconnaissance asset.

Capts Gregory W. Nita, Timothy J. McArthur, Woojay A. Poynter and Christopher W. Chang, First Lieutenants Carl C. Schluckebier, Andrew L. Burroughs, and Daniel L. Resseguie, 343rd Reconnaissance Sqn., and 38th Reconnaissance Sqn., 55th Wing, Offutt AFB, Nebraska
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Title Annotation:military safety
Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:473
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