Should Company Be Held Liable For MD Issues?
If you took your 27-year-old car in
to the dealership, claiming defective workmanship... how far do you
think you'd get? That, in essence, is the question the US Air Force
continues to mull over, as it works to determine what liability, if
any, Boeing has following a spate of incidents involving older F-15
As ANN reported, an
investigation into what led to the in-flight breakup of an F-15C in
November 2007 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.
Nearly all the F-15s in service with the USAF were built by
McDonnell Douglas Corp., which was absorbed into Boeing in 1997.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, the service's top uniformed
acquisition officer, told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer the
investigation into the problems continues... and at this point,
it's unclear whether Boeing will be held culpable for the
"At this point, there is no smoking gun that says, 'Aha,'" he
Complicating matters is the age of the suspect planes. The
average age of the F-15 fleet is over 25 years old; the aircraft
involved in the November 2 accident was 27-years old, and had 5,600
flight hours on its airframe. While that particular plane was rated
for an 8,000-hour life expectancy, that's still a lot of hours of
often high-g operations.
Hoffman employed the used-car analogy cited earlier. If you took
your car back to the dealer "because it is worn out and you say
this part wasn't made the way it was supposed to, you'll have a
lame argument there," he said.
The Air Force is now taking a close look at the small print on
the original contracts between McDonnell Douglas and the service...
but that's tricky, given the time that's passed.
"There isn't a big file cabinet where you can go back and get
all this information," Hoffman said. "We are doing due diligence to
see whether there is any residual liability from the manufacturing