In 2017, an A-10 Warthog pilot belly-landed his attack aircraft with landing gear up and no cockpit canopy.
The next year, it was delivered to a maintenance team in pieces.
After three years of work, the plane has been put back together and is once again airworthy.
The A-10 Warthog a pilot won an award for crash landing has been put back together after 3 years in the shop
The US Air Force managed to put an A-10 attack aircraft back together after a pilot crash-landed the plane with inoperable landing gear and no cockpit canopy. It took the service over three years to get it airworthy again.
On June 20, 2017, Brett DeVries, then a captain, successfully pulled off what a former secretary of the Air Force called an "extraordinary" feat of flying.
During a training exercise above Grayling Air Gunnery Range, the pilot with the "Red Devils" of the Michigan Air National Guard ran into trouble when the powerful GAU-8/A Avenger cannon on his aircraft failed, triggering an explosion that blew the cockpit canopy and aircraft paneling off.
Flying at roughly 375 mph, the wind slammed DeVries into his seat. "It was like someone sucker punched me," he said in a past retelling of the incident.
After pulling up from 150 feet to a safer altitude, he began checking his equipment, only to discover that part of his landing gear was damaged and would not come down.
"Landing a plane with the gear down is good. Landing with it up is not ideal," an official account of DeVries' experiences said. "Landing with some of it up and some of it down, well, those stories seldom end well."
He opted for a belly landing with all landing gear up, something the A-10 is built to handle but is still risky. He put the plane on the ground and walked away unharmed, becoming the first to belly land an A-10 with no cockpit canopy.
For his flying, which not only saved himself but also the aircraft, the Air Force awarded Maj. Brett DeVries the Distinguished Flying Cross last fall.
Putting it back together
DeVries' A-10, tail number 80-0264, was delivered to the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Hill Air Foce Base in pieces in 2018, the Air Force said in a recent statement on efforts to repair the plane. The maintenance team was asked to try to bring the aircraft back to life.
Daniel Wise, the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron A-10 planning chief, said "we knew we could do it, but it would take a long time."
He explained that the damage from the cannon malfunction and resulting explosion, which was much more severe than the damage from the belly landing, required the maintenance personnel to basically rebuild the entire front of the plane.
"There's a main nose bean right next to the gun that blew up, so the inside of the entire gun cavity had to be rebuilt," Scott Oster, the 571st AMXS lead A-10 planner, explained. "It was just a whole lot of structural work, like 90 percent."
Many of the necessary parts for the 40-year-old aircraft were unavailable though, which meant they had to manufacture the parts themselves.
As Task & Purpose noted in its reporting, Air Force efforts to retire the A-10, which have faced congressional pushback, have put a strain on the ability to procure the parts for the aging close-air support aircraft that was first introduced in the 1970s.
Oster said that "with any of the other weapons systems, if they have a bad part, they order it through supply and replace it. On the A-10s, we're kind of in a different world."
But, after three years of work on the damaged attack aircraft, the team got the plane put back together again.
"We're all pretty passionate about keeping the A-10 alive and in the air," Wise said. "It's America's number-one choice for close-air support and getting 264 ready to fly back home is really something to be proud of."
DeVries' A-10 was expected to fly back to its home station with the Michigan Air National Guard last week, but that has been delayed, a Guard spokesperson told Insider.
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