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How safe are Air National Guard KC-135's?

CREATED Jun 19, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Are the lives of our service men and women in danger?

It’s a question you’ve raised after the fourth emergency landing for the 128th Air Refueling Wing this year.

A KC-135 jet engine was forced to land outside of Indianapolis at Grissom Air Reserve Base Tuesday, after one of its hydraulic systems failed.

Col. Ted Metzgar is Wing Commander of the 128th and is one of many people who helped devise a plan of action for the in-flight emergency.

“We all get on the radio and collaborate together to come up with the best game plan. We fly with electronic publications that are very extensive,” said Metzgar.

The jet is equipped with three hydraulic systems. They believe the right one went out on Tuesday. 

After inspecting the plane, a mechanical crew said they were not yet sure what caused the failure.

A loss of the hydraulics shut down other systems used to land the KC-135, which is why the three-person crew opted for the longer runway at Grissom.

It allowed them to land with more speed than normal.

Metzgar tells TODAY’S TMJ4 the situation should not be of great concern.

“We have a simulator here and we go through these emergencies here all the time.”

To safely land, crew members had to manually crank the jet's flaps open, but Metzgar says the crew never lost control of the airplane.

“You could lose all hydraulics and still fly the airplane. It's not ideal but it's built that way,” said Metzgar.

In May, the crew of a KC-135 turned around minutes after taking off.

A gauge in the flight deck alerted the crew of fuel flow problems.  Mechanics later determined a newly installed sensor was faulty.

Weeks earlier, an oil pressure light forced another crew to turn around shortly after takeoff.

The 128th tells us the switch for the oil pressure was an original one, and it was worn out.

They have not found any trend in the recent emergency issues.

The jet's motor is retrieved after every flight and reviewed.

Analysts track the information and look for trends. They also compare the information with the 22 other Air National Guard wings that fly these tankers.

In addition, each plane goes through mandatory full inspection every two years.