Air Force "Salvage" Method Rapped

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Photo by Norris Warner

The flying fraternity and sorority in the San Antonio area is collectively shaking its head at what some are describing as a senseless waste of tax dollars with the destruction of 110 piston-single aircraft. As AVweb told you in its Sept. 15 Audiocast, the T-3 Slingsby Firefly pilot screening aircraft, virtually all of which were in flying condition when they were mothballed nine years ago, were smashed to pieces by heavy equipment at Hondo Airport last week. According to Air Force spokesman Capt. Gideon McClure, the military’s term for the systematic destruction of the aircraft is "salvage in place." The Air Force paid more than $32 million for the planes and the best it can hope for from the destruction work is that it won’t cost any more.

The planes have been stored under "hail sheds," essentially metal-roofed shelters without walls, at Hondo since they were pulled from service in 1997 for safety reasons. The methods used to reduce them to rubble were devastatingly simple and completely effective. They were dragged from the sheds on their flat tires and picked up, nose first, by a giant forklift. That part of the process probably finished them as flying machines. They were then carried to a screened-off area where an excavator smashed them to shards of fiberglass with its steel bucket. At some point in the process, the coup de grace was administered with a plasma torch that melted and fused the engine block.