A jet used to refuel US military fighter aircraft in the air made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport yesterday after suffering a failure of one of it’s hydraulic systems.
The pilot of the Boeing KC-135R ‘Stratotanker’ declared an emergency at around 11.00am reporting a problem with the hydraulics on the right side of the jet.
The crew of flight RCH-677 also told controllers that it was likely they would be unable to turn or steer their plane after landing. There was a total of nine personnel on board.
The 50-year-old aircraft, a military variant of Boeing’s 707 jet, is attached to the Air Force Reserve Command 507th Air Refuelling Wing based at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
The plane is used to refuel tactical fighters and bombers and other US military aircraft in the air. The pilot confirmed they still had fuel in the refuelling tanks when landing.
Authorities at Shannon Airport put their major emergency plan into operation and alerted the fire and ambulance services as well as gardaí.
Fire crews from Shannon Town were mobilised to the airport along with a fleet of ambulances from Ennis and Limerick.
Additional fire appliances from Ennis, normally sent to a designated holding point at Dromoland, were instructed to proceed directly to the airport such was the potential seriousness of the incident.
As many as 22 emergency vehicles were sent to Shannon as back-up to the airport’s own extensive fleet of emergency vehicles.
Airport crash crews and local authority fire service vehicles took up positions along Shannon’s main runway ahead of the jet’s arrival.
After dumping aviation fuel and going through their checklists, the aircraft commenced their approach and landed safely at 12.24pm. The jet was pursued along the runway by emergency vehicles until it came to the safe stop.
Fire crews checked the aircraft’s undercarriage to ensure it hadn’t overheated in the heavy landing while personnel also patrolled the runway to check whether any debris or hydraulic fluid had been left behind by the plane.
After coming to a safe stop, the plane was however unable to turn as the hydraulic system failure left the aircraft without any nose-wheel steering capability.
As a result, the runway was closed for about 35 minutes until the aircraft could be towed clear by a tug. One inbound passenger flight and a private jet were placed in holding patterns away from the airport however delays were not significant.
Just last Saturday, a high-tech US military electronic warfare aircraft made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport after suffering engine problems over the Atlantic.
The EC-130H ‘Compass Call’, a variant of the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transport plane, was en route from the United States to a destination in Europe when the crew declared an emergency and shut down one of the turbo-prop’s four engines