Air Refueling Archive

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A-10 Cracked UARRSI during flight test

The following photos and narrative were provided by Billy Meeks, a former flight test boom operator at Edwards AFB.

It’s been said , “one good test is worth a thousand opinions”. It’s also axiomatic that no test, regardless of outcome, is a failure. It may contain some elements of failure but, if something is learned that can lead to success, then the test is a success even in failure. The accompanying photos are an example. Phil Zamagne was the lead on a night lighting evaluation of A-10 lighting. We went out after dark and caught up with an A-10 being piloted by an AFTEC (previous to AFOTEC) pilot for an operational look. Phil completed his test card deck and concluded the test. I sniveled for one more contact and he permitted me to do so. The A-10 returned to the precontact, reported ready and moved forward. I put the nozzle in the receptacle and instead of a contact made light, all the lights went dim on the instrument panel. I reset with the nozzle in contact and got the same result. So, I thought let’s start over here and retracted the boom except it would not come out of the receptacle. Uh, Oh. So I monkeyed with it and it still would not come out. By now the A-10 guy was starting to get a little antsy and pretty much started running th limits. I/we finally got him settled down and following us and we tried a bunch of stuff all to no avail. I/we are starting to get concerned. After discussing our options we were down to a forced disconnect. So I set it up with him at mid boom and he retards his throttles, slides back to the end and, KLUNK. We are still stuck with him and him with us. Oookaay, let’s try this again. Same thing. All right, let’s enhance this a bit. Started him at 6 feet, he pulls his throttles and I stand on the extension. Zip, KLUNK. So we know we can’t land this way and he’s not amenable to us dragging him off on Mount Whitney. Just what are we going to do. I’m wondering if Phil is laughing at me but I’m scared to look to see. As it turned out the A-10 is one of two prototypes and had hydraulic system control switches. Someone asks and he confirms and turns off the switches and just like FM the boom comes out. This whole thing went on for what seemed like 30 minutes.

What happened? The A-10 has/had a “T” handle which controlled the deploy/retract function of the UARRSI. When he came back he pulled the handle but not all the way out. That allowed the slipway to bleed down but not lock down. He got a ready light as he normally would. When the boom went in it created an air flow situation such that the slipway door floated up behind the ball joint and captured the receptacle. See fotos, zoom and note the fractures in the assembly.

The fix: redesign such that the handle had to be fulled extended and locked by turning 90 degrees. This is a test failure that resulted in a successful outcome.

I’m claiming hero status for Phil and I since we maybe prevented some youngster from from finding out what it was like to land hooked up to an A-10.

A-10 Cracked UARSSI refueling recptacle (1)

A-10 Cracked UARSSI refueling recptacle (2)


February 19, 2018 - Posted by | 1970s, A-10, History, Uncategorized

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