Saturday, January 22, 2011

Part Of Airbus Tanker's Refueling Boom Falls Off During Exercise

A substantial part of the in-flight refueling boom onboard an Airbus A330 MRTT tanker destined for the Royal Australian Air Force has broken off and fallen into the Atlantic during an exercise.

The major part of the boom broke off part-way through refueling a Portuguese Air Force F-16 at around 5 p.m. Jan. 19, an Airbus Military spokesman said.

Both aircraft returned to their respective bases with minor damage. The tanker was being flown by an Airbus crew at the time of the incident.

A statement from the Australian Department of Defence said no Australian personnel were onboard at the time of the break.

The spokesman said it was the 14th refueling contact of the exercise.

He said it was too early to say whether technical, human or other factors caused the boom to break off.

European military airworthiness authorities and Airbus Military have begun investigating the incident.

Australia has purchased five of the MRTT aircraft, with the first machine expected to be delivered next month. It is not clear yet whether the delivery of the first aircraft will be delayed as a result of the incident.

The boom was designed by EADS and has yet to enter service with any air force. The system is the same one being offered to the U.S. Air Force in the tanker competition underway against rival bidder Boeing.

EADS conducted the first in-flight wet contact with its Air Refueling Boom System in early 2008, again operating with a Portuguese F-16.

The ARBS is 17 meters long at full extension. The fly-by-wire system is controlled remotely by an operator from a console in the cockpit.

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