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Four F-15s with cracks based in Southern Oregon

Four F-15s with cracks based in Southern Oregon

KLAMATH FALLS — Four F-15 fighter jets in Oregon are among eight in the world found to have potentially disabling structural cracks, military officials say.

The nation's F-15 fleet was grounded after one of the fighters crashed in Missouri on Nov. 2. Inspections of grounded jets have turned up some with cracks in the longerons — parts of the fuselage near the canopy that hold much of the aircraft's weight.

A military accident investigation board has found defects which indicate potential structural damage in the rest of the fleet, according to an Air Force Web site in a posting dated Monday from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

In Oregon, all 25 Air National Guard F-15s stationed at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls have been inspected, Col. Tom Schiess, 173rd Fighter Wing base commander, told the Klamath Falls Herald and News.

Schiess said he does not know when flights at Kingsley, a training base for F-15 pilots, will resume. The base has 19 instructor pilots and averages 12 to 15 students at any given time.

"I think it will be dependent on when they conclude their findings, which should be in a week or two," Schiess said.

The newspaper said that, as of Monday, 388 of the nation's 422 F-15s had been inspected.

The other jets with cracks included two based at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, one based at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, and another assigned to the Air National Guard 131st Fighter Wing in St. Louis, Mo., according to the Web site.

Schiess said the Kingsley F-15s with cracks were stationed at four or more bases before being sent to Kingsley. Three of the planes were made in 1980 and the fourth in 1981. The aircraft each were flown between 3,400 and 5,900 hours.

Schiess said they happened to have been transferred to Oregon in the last two to seven years. He noted all the aircraft at Kingsley are between 25 and 28 years old.

The Kingsley aircraft had previously been based in Florida, Iceland, Germany, Las Vegas and Alaska.

Schiess said he was confident about the maintenance work done at Kingsley, despite the age of the fighter fleet and the "tremendous stress" put on them.

He said the the number of Kingsley planes with cracks "is indicative of the amount of examination we're putting into each of the airplanes, or we're just unlucky."

The four planes are undergoing major repairs. Each F-15 is valued at $30 million.

— The Associated Press