WASHINGTON: The Navy has grounded an undisclosed number of planes following the discovery of a problem with a component involved in the pilot ejection process, a service spokeswoman told Breaking Defense.
Naval Air Systems Command “has made the decision to ground some fixed-wing aircraft due to an ejection seat cartridge actuated device (CAD) production issue,” the spokeswoman said in a statement today. “For operational security, we will not discuss the exact number of aircraft affected, but this issue does not affect every aircraft in Navy and Marine Corps inventory”
The spokeswoman also said the Navy has informed its foreign military sales customers about the problem and “is actively working with all FMS partners affected by the CAD issue.”
Naval Air Systems Command, also referred to as NAVAIR, is the service’s lead agency for buying and overseeing the maintenance of the naval aviation fleet. On Tuesday, NAVAIR disclosed in a press release it had discovered a problem with the “cartridge actuated devices” in a “limited range of lot numbers” of F/A-18B/C/D Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E/A-18G Growlers, and T-45 Goshawk and F-5 Tiger II training aircraft.
The CAD is responsible for specific functions that ultimately allow pilots to eject from an aircraft safely when necessary. The Navy spokeswoman declined to comment on the consequences if a pilot attempted to use a faulty CAD, but given the component’s role in the ejection process — and the fact the service grounded some of its aircraft — it seems clear the Navy believes there is a safety risk involved.
“Since CADs are used in the ejection process, a faulty CAD may not allow all the functions necessary to take place that would allow a complete and safe ejection,” Michael Cisek, a senior associate at the aviation consulting firm AeroDynamic Advisory, told Breaking Defense. “While the aircraft are flyable, I don’t think too many pilots would be willing to fly knowing they may not be able [to] eject.”
According to the Tuesday statement, the service was notified of the flaw by the component’s vendor, Martin Baker, and “used validated radiography procedures to scan on-hand inventory to verify each item was properly manufactured” before sending replacements.
The Navy began shipping replacement parts to the fleet maintenance centers and active squadrons on July 24, and any effected aircraft will be inspected prior to its next flight, the statement added