January 6, 1998 in Nation/World

‘Firefly’ Gets Safety Upgrade

Associated Press

The Air Force will make fuel-system and other changes in the T-3A “Firefly,” a training aircraft involved in three fatal accidents over the past few years, the head of the service’s training programs said Monday.

The Air Force grounded its 110-plane fleet in July after a series of unexplained engine failures. Six people had been killed since 1995 in the planes - three Air Force Academy cadets and three of their teachers.

Air Force Gen. Lloyd Newton, commander of the Air Education and Training Command, said 10 changes will be made - at a cost of $6.2 million - that deal mostly with the aircraft’s fuel system.

“We will not put the aircraft back in service … until I’ve gone out and flown it myself,” said the four-star general. Newton flew 269 combat missions during the Vietnam War and was one of the service’s premier pilots with the Thunderbirds, the aerobatic flying team.

The general said he expects changes to be completed by mid-1998.

The Air Force had received more than 50 reports of engine failures since the planes were put into service in 1994.

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