02 February 2010

Planes don't fix themselves

And while we're on the topic of the occasional scary-looking Su-47 Berkut or PAK-FA, let's also consider that these wunderwaffen are useless unless you have sharp ground crews working countless hours turning wrenches on aircraft.

David Axe from War is Boring provides us with an excellent example of what happens to those shiny new MiGs when their maintainers neglect and abuse them.

Hilarious story in the current issue of Combat Aircraft. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the Hungarian air force was in bad shape. It had inherited a huge fleet of aging airplanes from its former Soviet ally, as well as personnel that were mostly poorly-trained conscripts. Russia had “not proved to be ideal partners for ‘after-sales’ support,” leaving many of the Hungarians’ aircraft unserviceable. The fleet dwindled in size and capability.

The most important aircraft were the two squadrons of MiG-29 fighters that patrolled Hungarian airspace. Poor support grounded most of the MiG-29s. The situation got even worse when the conscript maintainers got their hands on the finicky jets, as Combat Aircraftwriter Zord Gabor Laszlo recounts. The conscripts were

ordered to de-ice them before flying operations in wintertime. It is recalled that, since no jet fuel was available for jet heaters, these soldiers used brooms to remove the ice, a process which resulted in the MiGs’ honeycomb structures such as elevators, flaps, rudders and ailerons being seriously damaged.

Several of the MiGs never flew again. Not coincidentally, Hungary ended the draft in 2005.

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