Says Planemaker "Should Have Known" Of Fatigue Problems
The Missouri Air National Guard
pilot who suffered severe injuries when his F-15C broke apart
inflight during a November 2007 training mission has sued Boeing,
claiming the company "should have known" the aging aircraft was
"defective and unreasonably dangerous."
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Major Stephen Stilwell, 37,
was at the controls of the fighter that broke apart at 18,000 feet
over south-central Missouri. He was able to eject from the
aircraft, but suffered injuries to his left arm and shoulder in the
process -- requiring a 10-inch metal plate to be inserted.
A pilot for Southwest Airlines, Stilwell says he continues to
suffer from chronic pain from his injuries.
As ANN reported, the Air
Force ordered its F-15 fleet grounded in the days following the
November 2 accident. Newer model F-15E Strike Eagles were returned
to duty soon afterward, but officials ordered inspections of older
Those investigations uncovered structural beams in several
older-model F-15s that weren't up to spec. Investigators also
discovered one of the accident aircraft's four cockpit longerons --
which support the fuselage during high-g maneuvers -- was thinner
that design specifications called for. Subsequent inspections
throughout the entire USAF F-15 fleet uncovered a wide range of
issues with other longerons -- including those that were too thin,
or had surface imperfections that could place too much stress on
the structure. The flaws on some beams were relatively minor,
though others had larger problems.
Nine other F-15s were found to have cracks in their longerons,
similar to those found on the accident aircraft. The Air Force has
since returned all but 161 F-15s to active duty, and it's unclear
whether some of those jets will ever fly again
The Air Force is now deliberating whether Boeing -- which took
over McDonnell Douglas Corp., the original manufacturer of the
affected F-15s, in 1997 -- should be held responsible for repairing
the fighters, many of which are over 20 years old. But Stilwell has
already made up his mind.
"Boeing knew or should have know that the F-15 as manufactured
allowed and permitted for catastrophic flight break-up," says
Stilwell's suit, filed by attorney Morry S. Cole in US District
Court last week.
The pilot also claims Boeing failed to notify USAF and Missouri
ANG officials of "the likelihood of excess stress concentrations,
fatigue cracking, structural failure and in-flight aircraft break
up as a result of the structural deficiencies."