A Boeing F18-F Super Hornet crashed today Wednesday April 6th 2011 around 12:08pm in a field near Naval Air Station Lemoore, near Fresno California. Both aircrew on board the aircraft attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 122 lost their lives during the accident which is reported to have occurred during a routine flight training. This incident is taking place after a recent March 30th 2011 flight deck explosion of an F18-C engine aboard USS John C. Stennis had left eleven sailors injured.
Analyzing procurement programs for the F-18 E-F aircraft flight-critical systems, the Navy has recently sought to implement a major engineering change effort that would involve a complete redesign of the F-18 Super Hornet’s family Trailing Edge Flap (TEF) system. It appears that extensive testing and structural analysis have demonstrated premature apparition of fatigue-related cracks among other tell-tale signs of structural failure (“Co-cure rib 1 shear clip failure, cracks in the inboard hinge area, cracks in the front spar, cracks in the splice rib, numerous fastener failures, co-cure skin stability and rib pull off, micro cracking in the co-cure rabbet”). These results of sustained ‘testing and complete teardown analysis’ advised the adoption of a new Trailing Edge Flap system using a traditional Honeycomb aluminum structure as a replacement to the current Trailing Edge Flap. The current Trailing Edge Flap benefits from a highly advanced composite materials structure that uses a co-cure bonding chemical process for enhanced physical properties (rigidity, heat resistance etc). Hawker de Havilland Australia, wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing is sole provider of the F-18 wing Trailing Edge Flaps
On March 24th 2011 the US Navy ordered 65 additional Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACESs) manufactured by Martin Baker Aircraft Co. Ltd (headquartered in Denham, England). The NACES is operational across the entire US Navy F-18 family of aircraft F-18A/C E/F and the EA-18G variants. Finally we identified a massive $576 million package order for the delivery of engine components and associated replacement, repair and overhaul services for the F-18 Super Hornet (E/F and G variants) General Electric F414 engines with General Electric Aviation of Lynn Massachusetts.
This summary review indicates that the Navy despite set backs in current funding has been making sound investment decisions with respect to sustaining operational safety.