The UK Ministry of Defence has grounded the RAF’s Airbus Voyager KC2 and KC3 MRTTs following a sudden loss of altitude of one of their growing fleet on February 10.
The aircraft was reportedly flying at 38,000 feet during a transport mission from the UK to Afghanistan when it suddenly lost altitude over Turkey, and the pilot was forced to make a precautionary landing at Incirlik AB in that country’s southeast.
Unconfirmed reports indicate only those aircraft fitted with air-to-air refuelling systems and defensive suites were grounded, and that the single transport-only configured aircraft which is used for passenger and freight missions to the Falkland Islands and other places will remain flying.
A Reuters report quoted an MoD statement which said the aircraft had suffered an “inflight issue”, adding that, “The safety of all our aircrews and passengers is our paramount concern, therefore, following this incident it has been decided to temporarily suspend military-registered Voyager flying while this is fully investigated.”
The RAF has ordered 14 Airbus A330-200-based Voyagers under private finance initiative through the AirTanker consortium which comprises Babcock, Cobham, Rolls-Royce and Thales. The UK’s aircraft are only equipped with two or three hose and drogue refuelling points and no boom, and seven of the 14 aircraft had been delivered to the RAF by the end of January.
So far the grounding has not had any effect on RAAF KC-30A MRTT operations.
“No flight restrictions have not been placed on the RAAF KC-30A fleet as a result of the incident involving a Royal Air Force Voyager on 9 February 2014,” a Defence spokesman advised late on February 14. “The RAAF understands that the Royal Air Force is investigating this incident, and appropriate consideration will be given by the RAAF once findings are released. There is currently no information that would indicate that there is an airworthiness risk to the RAAF KC-30A.”