Belgium grounds F-16 fleet following engine mishap
Following a technical investigation into an engine incident, the whole fleet of F-16 fighter jets of the Belgian Air Component was grounded from March 9, 2021, pending review.
On February 11, 2021, an F-16 of the Belgian Air Component had to land shortly after takeoff after suffering engine problems at Florennes Air Base near Namur, Belgium. The investigation revealed that the plane suffered a nozzle burn, “a phenomenon in which a break in material causes, due to the high temperature, a number of parts to melt which can come off,” according to Belgium’s Defense Aviation Safety Directorate.
The engine was sent for dismantling to Patria Belgium Engine Center maintenance company. The mishap was traced back to a failure of the hinge pin. After an examination of the entire F-16 fleet, the same problem was noticed on a significant number of engines.
Upon notifying the engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and the US Air Force, a grounding of the fleet was ordered to carry out corrective actions as quickly as possible. “Repair time is estimated at 5 working days per engine,” the Defense Ministry said. “There is, however, a shortage of spare parts on the market.”
Replacement engines should be fitted on affected aircraft to maintain the “Quick Reaction Alert” system over Belgian and Dutch airspace operational after the inspection. Other operators of the F-16 will investigate to find out if their aircraft are experiencing the same problem.
On September 19, 2019, a Belgian F-16 fighter jet crashed near Pluvigner, western France. The two pilots managed to eject. The falling aircraft damaged a house, its occupants were evacuated. The incident is still under investigation.
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