Six USAFA Members Perished In Flawed Aircraft
The US Air Force has
announced that it will scrap all 110 remaining T-3A
Firefly training aircraft in the fleet. And in this case,
scrapping means all the way down to the scrap bin/smelter.
The planes were grounded in 1997 after numerous
incidents and three crashes that killed three Air Force
Academy students along with their instructors.
In 1993, the Air Force purchased 113
British-made Slingsby T-3A Fireflys for a total of $32
million. After spending another ten million dollars following
the grounding, the planes still could not be made airworthy.
The Firefly was procured for the Enhanced
Flight Screening Program to replace the highly
successful, but limited, Cessna T-41 Mescalero (a
derivative of the ubiquitous C-172) that had been used for decades.
From 1993 to 1995, the aircraft were delivered to Hondo, Texas,
near the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) headquartered at
Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio and some were then sent up
to the academy.
The British Royal Air Force still employs the T-67 variant of
aircraft for training and the Canadian Air Force used the Slingsby
until earlier this year.
Two of the accidents occurred in training areas near El Paso,
TX, and one near Colorado Springs where the Air Force Academy is
based. While the Air Force attributed two of the fatal mishaps to
pilot error, all three accidents involved problems with the engine,
a six cylinder Textron Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 generating 260 hp
driving a three-bladed prop.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-3A's engine had failed 66
times during takeoffs or landings. The Air Force grounded 57
of the planes on ten separate occasions due to problems with
either engines, fuel systems, or brakes.
"We critically challenged ourselves as to what was the right
moral policy and economical and legal decision and were led to
completely salvage these airplanes, because we no longer have a
mission for this aircraft," David Smith, news division chief with
Air Education and Training Command's public affairs office, told
The Gazette of Colorado Springs. He added, "The aircraft has been
sitting for nine years, so to get them to FAA certification you'd
almost have to rebuild the airplanes. It was found to be totally
The Firefly was never replaced, but instead a new program was
instituted. Approximately 150 private flight schools are now
contracted to offer student flight screening to Air Force ROTC
students and AF Academy cadets, using conventional civilian
After the grounding, 106 aircraft were stored without
maintenance at Hondo and Colorado Springs, and
another four sat at Edwards AFB in California.
TOTALL Metal Recycling Inc. won the contract, agreeing to pay scrap
value plus twelve thousand dollars, according to the
On Monday, the destruction begins. By Sept. 25, there will not
be a single example of the troubled Air Force T-3A Firefly in