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Hail-damaged T-1s back in the fight

  • Published
  • By Brian Brackens
  • Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Several years ago, 39 T-1 Jayhawks assigned to the 47th Flying Training Wing, were severely damaged when a hail storm swept through Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

Unable to fly, the aircraft – used for advanced pilot training – were grounded for repairs.

The Air Education and Training Command reached out to the Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate, which developed a plan to quickly repair and get the planes back into action.

“We deployed a team to Laughlin AFB, Texas to do a site survey, and we determined that the damaged aircraft would have to be sent to a depot-like facility to be repaired,” said Herman Brandon, Chief, Specialized Trainer Aircraft Branch, within the Directorate’s Legacy Trainer Aircraft Division. “From there, we established two repair lines which we knew would expedite getting the aircraft back into service.”

The repairs took place at an L3 Harris facility in Waco, Texas, and at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) – which received certification to repair commercial derivative aircraft – located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.  

Initially, the directorate-led repair team thought the external damage – caused by hail – was the primary concern, however upon further inspection other issues were identified.

“If you ever watched ‘This Old House’ [home improvement T.V. series], well that’s what these aircraft were like,” said Brandon. “Once we removed the skins, we found additional over and above work was required.”

Some of the additional work included removing blue water corrosion in some planes, repairing frame cracks were found, and addressing pressurization challenges.
The last T-1 to be repaired returned to service Dec. 2020. Overall, the total cost to repair the 39 aircraft was approximately $134 million.

“This was very important work,” said Brandon. “Before the repairs, not having the planes had an impact on aircraft availability rates and the Air Force’s ability to train pilots. I’m very proud of the team for getting these aircraft back to 47th Flying Training Wing.”