OTTAWA – Marooned at a Micronesian air force base after colliding with another aircraft over the summer, a heavily damaged Canadian Air Force transport plane will be scrapped, officials say.
Royal Canadian Air Force transport plane 15003 — a CC-150 Polaris — was involved in a ground collision with a French Air Force plane on July 22 at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam while participating in a multinational exercise organized by the United States Air Force.
With the fate of the aircraft left in doubt since the summer, the Royal Canadian Air Force confirmed to the National Post on Thursday the plane will be written off and scrapped on site.
“The Polaris CC-150 aircraft in question sustained severe damage that renders repair economically unfeasible,” said Department of National Defence Spokesperson Maj. Soomin Kim.
“Repair costs were estimated to range between $7.9 and $28.5 million, with a six to eight-month turnaround period.”
According to an official air force occurrence summary, 15003 was taking part in Exercise MOBILITY GUARDIAN, a large-scale logistics training exercise facilitated by the USAF Air Mobility Command.
An RCAF crew assigned to fly the plane back to CFB Trenton arrived at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii on July 21, the report read, with plans to depart Guam the next day for Canada.
“The aircraft was loaded with equipment and baggage in preparation for departure the following day,” the report read.
Noting the plane was left “partially secured” without wheel chocks, the report said 15003 rolled backwards on its own at 10:30 a.m. the next morning, colliding with a French Air Force Airbus A400M parked nearby.
“Following contact the CC-150 rebounded forward, coming to rest approximately eight meters from the point of impact,” the report read.
The French aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer tore through 15003’s rudder, nearly shearing off the plane’s tail.
Both planes sustained major damage in the collision, the report noted, but nobody was injured.
“The investigation did not reveal any evidence of technical issues with the aircraft and is now focusing on procedures, communications, and human factors,” the report stated.
The decision to scrap 15003 came just one day before the plane was scheduled to be decommissioned, Kim said, now that the first of four new Airbus-built CC-330 Husky Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) planes entered service earlier this month.
The CC-330s are based on Airbus’s venerable A330-200 airliners.
Those four planes are part of a $3.6-billion deal to modernize Canada’s transport, VIP and air-to-air refuelling capabilities.
Canada’s first CC-330 arrived in Canada in October and took its first official flight earlier this month, transporting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the APEC summit in San Francisco.
“The Canadian Armed Forces concluded that writing off the aircraft would be in the best interest of the Crown,” Maj. Kim said.
The arrival of the CC-330 Husky couldn’t have come at a better time for Canada’s beleaguered and obsolete Polaris fleet.
Plane 15001, typically used by the prime minister or other VIPs for overseas trips, broke down in September in New Delhi, prompting an international mission to both dispatch technicians and a second plane to India to rescue the PM and his delegation.
In 2019, that same plane was put out of commission for nearly a year-and-a-half after it rolled away and collided with a hangar wall at CFB Trenton, causing $11 million in damage to its nose and an engine.
Ottawa-based research consultant Steffan Watkins pointed out that most of that repair time was spent waiting for an open repair slot at the Airbus maintenance depot at Montreal-Mirabel airport.
“It would be interesting to know, in the government’s expected schedule for the estimated work needed to fix 15003, if most of the time for the repair would be spent waiting for Airbus to slot them in,” he said.
Aircraft 15004, he said, has been undergoing deep maintenance in Mirabel for the past month.
Only three of the RCAF’s five Polaris planes are still in service — 15001 and 15002 have spent the past two weeks performing flights between Canada and Europe, with 15005 taking part in a joint training exercise in Key West, Fla.
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