United States Air Force grounds KC-135 fleet over fears they may fall apart in the air

Commonly known as an “Elephant Walk,” a group of four U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing are on the taxiway prior to take off in Sioux City, Iowa on September 3, 2009. The aircraft are departing for a local air refueling mission. USAF Photo Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot

The United States Air Force has grounded its KC-135 fleet due to a flaw that may result in the aircraft falling apart in flight.

More than 200 KC-135 aircraft could be impacted by this issue, as well as RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft [which became better known to the public following the recent balloon incidents].

As of Sunday, over 90 of the tanker aircraft were inspected for the flaw, which could potentially cause the aircraft’s tail to come off mid-flight.

“We’re taking this action out of an abundance of caution, after consulting with our engineering experts,” Col. Michael Kovalchek, Senior Materiel Leader with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Legacy Tanker Division, said in a statement to Fox News. “We are working closely with Air Mobility Command and all operational users and anticipate all potentially affected aircraft will be inspected.”

The issue has reportedly been troubleshot down to identifying non-conforming vertical terminal fitting pins, or tail pins, as the culprit.

The inspections are expected to take about two weeks, and will potentially impact operations.

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