The Navy's fleet of T-45C Goshawk training jets has been grounded since last week after one plane suffered an issue at takeoff days earlier. The halt means that pilot training has taken a serious hit as well.
In a statement released Tuesday, the service announced that the Chief of Naval Air Training "placed the Navy and Marine Corps' fleet of T-45Cs on a safety pause" on Oct. 14 "to review an engine blade fault."
Navy spokeswoman Elizabeth Fahrner told Military.com in an email that the problem with the blades was discovered when a T-45C taking off from Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas "experienced a low-pressure compressor blade failure" on Oct. 11.
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As a result of the jets' grounding, "there's a significant loss in production for both student naval aviators and student naval flight officers," Fahrner explained.
Navy leaders emphasized that the choice to ground the planes was made "out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our aviators."
Rear Adm. John Lemmon, the officer who oversees the Navy's Tactical Aircraft Programs, said in the service's statement that four commands "have been working around the clock with industry partner Rolls-Royce to identify the root cause of the recent T-45 engine blade failure."
"Engineering analysis has been underway and will continue until we can safely return the T-45 fleet to a flying status," Lemmon added.
The aircraft is powered by a single Rolls-Royce turbofan engine.
In the meantime, Fahrner said that training air wings and squadrons will work to "maximize ground training, including classroom lectures, simulators and computer-based training" for student pilots.
The T-45 has been part of the Navy's training program for more than 30 years, and the version being grounded has been in service since 1997. As such, this safety pause is not the first in the aging jet's history.
Most recently, reports surfaced in 2017 that around 100 T-45 instructor pilots had refused to fly in the jet, citing concerns over the aircraft's oxygen supply. Shortly after that, the Navy ordered a temporary pause in T-45 training flights.
In 2020, officials said they had been able to substantially decrease the number of physiological episodes in the jet, though a root cause for the problem was never found.
There have been reports that the service has been in talks with Boeing to replace the Goshawk fleet with the company's newer T-7A Red Hawk jet. To date, no decisions have been formally announced.
The Navy doesn't have an estimate on when the plane will return to service, Fahrner said.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
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