Despite periodic overhauls and “a lot of maintenance love,” the 55th Wing’s 29 planes average more than 80 emergencies and aborted flights per year. Some Air Force veterans fear for crews that take to the sky in the aged, overworked jets. Yet the Air Force plans to keep flying them for 30 more years.

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Despite periodic overhauls and “a lot of maintenance love,” the 55th Wing’s 29 planes average more than 80 emergencies and aborted flights per year. Some 55th Wing veterans fear for crews that take to the sky in the aged, overworked jets. Yet the Air Force plans to keep flying them for 30 more years.

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A deep dive into Air Force documents shows a long string of close calls at the 55th Wing due to mechanical failures.

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Persistent mechanical problems may plague the 55th Wing's half-century-old fleet of reconnaissance jets, but the Air Force is in no hurry to buy new ones. It plans to squeeze 30 more years out of the Offutt-based C-135s.

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Older jets like Offutt's half-century-old RC-135s are notorious for leaks in the hydraulic systems. The hydraulic systems allow the movement o…

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Maintenance records of the 55th Wing are filled with examples of electrical failures and circuit breakers being tripped.

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Offutt flight crews spend dozens of hours a year practicing emergencies of all sorts — hydraulic failures, rudder deflections, landing-gear problems, engine shutdowns. 

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It's a "process that unfolds over time. You think, ‘It hasn’t happened to us. Maybe it’s not ever going to happen to us.’ The level of acceptable risk slowly ratchets up, and you eventually get to a place where it becomes the new normal.” 

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Both U.S. senators and all three House members signed a letter sent Friday to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson asking her to investigate problems revealed in the series.

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Memo to Congress and the Pentagon: Wake up.

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The idea for this World-Herald series on the safety of the 55th Wing C-135 reconnaissance fleet was sparked three years ago, when 27 crew memb…