The Breitling Sion Air Show is a unique aeronautical spectacle in the heart of the Alps.
More visible and surprising, the airplanes become one with the mountains before they amaze and dazzle the spectators with their exhibitions.
As Popular Mechanics reporting on September 5, a U.S. Air Force aircraft crashed at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), killing the pilot. But even a week later, the Air Force has refused to reveal the type of aircraft involved in the incident. The hush-hush treatment has left many people wondering what the plane could be, and whether the Air Force is developing a new “black” aircraft that has not been declassified to the public.
The incident, which took place at a training facility in Nevada, has sparked speculation that some kind of previously unknown aircraft was involved. The pilot involved in the crash, Lt. Col. Eric Schultz, was a squadron commander of an Air Force unit that tests and evaluates foreign aircraft. If this is the case, the most likely explanation is that Schultz was piloting a foreign jet at the time of the crash.
Airmen who flight test foreign military planes, sometimes called Red Hats, are part of an unnumbered unit within Detachment 3 of the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, stationed out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. A press release from Nellis indicates that the aircraft involved in the incident belonged to Air Force Material Command, which oversees Detachment 3 of the 53rd. Flight testing foreign jets was previously conducted by the 413th Flight Test Squadron and the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron before that.
These units have been known to operate a variety of Russian-built fighter aircraft, including the MiG-29 and several jets built by Russian aviation contractor Sukhoi. The Su-27 air superiority fighter, for example, was spotted flying over the Nevada Test and Training Range this past January.
The exact aircraft type involved in the crash is still unknown, though it could be an Su-27 or possibly even the newer Su-30 multirole fighter, which Russia has sold to multiple U.S. allies such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Evaluating Russian aircraft has become a priority for the U.S. Air Force these days, as aerial encounters between the two militaries over Syria and the Baltics have become more common.
The mystery of the crash is compounded by the fact that Schultz was an experienced test pilot and engineer. A holder of six degrees, including a doctorate in aerospace engineering, Schultz had flown combat missions in the F-15E in Afghanistan and early flight test evaluations in the F-35, racking up more than 2,000 hours in a variety of aircraft over his career.
Sources: Aviation Week
The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), often called The Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft and missile storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, MASDC, and was established after World War II as the 3040th Aircraft Storage Group.
AMARG takes care of nearly 4,000 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world. An Air Force Materiel Command unit, the group is under the command of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.
There are four categories of storage for aircraft at AMARG:
Long Term – Aircraft are kept intact for future use
Parts Reclamation – Aircraft are kept, picked apart and used for spare parts
Flying Hold – Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays than Long Term
Excess of DoD needs – Aircraft are sold off whole or in parts
An aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:
Ejection seat charges, and classified hardware are removed.
All aircraft are carefully washed with fresh water, to remove environment residue, and then allowed to dry.
The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling it with lightweight oil, running engines to coat fuel system plumbing and engines, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective oil film.
The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures. This is done using a variety of materials, including a high tech vinyl plastic compound that is sprayed on the aircraft. This compound is called spraylat after its producer the Spraylat Corporation, and is applied in two coats, a black coat that seals the aircraft and a white coat that reflects the sun and helps to keep internal temperatures low. The plane is then towed by a tug to its designated “storage” position.