F-22 temporarily cleared to fly as all US East coast airbases evacuate jets as Hurricane Irene approaches

The USAF has temporarily lifted the grounding order of the F-22 based at Langley AFB, Va., which have been grounded since may due to the safety concerns over On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS).

The one-time clearance to fly was issued to enable the Raptors to reach Grissom ARB, Ind., before Irene hits the Virginia area over the weekend with winds in excess of 100 mph. Departures have begun at 10.00 local time on Aug. 26. The aircraft will remain in Indiana until the weather gets better, then they will be cleared to return to Langley.

All U.S. East Coast airbase are currently “Hurrevacing” their planes to get them out of the area expected to be affected by Irene Hurricane in the next hours while major airlines all around the world have already announced the cancelation of the scheduled services to New York on Aug. 28, when Irene should interest the NYC area.

The storm was in the northwest Bahamas the morning of Aug. 25, then it moved north- northeast bound, maintaining major hurricane status, approaching North Carolina in the morning of Aug. 27.

On Aug. 25, the 4th Fighter Wing and 916th Air Refueling Wing based at Seymour Johnson AFB began evacuating approximately 60 F-15E Strike Eagles and eight KC-135R Stratotankers to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. along with 350 aircrew and maintainers. Homestead, Fla, has been evacuated in the last days too, even if its F-16s have already returned home.

McGuire AFB has Hurrevaced transport aircraft and tankers to Grand Forks AFB, ND, while New Jersey Air National Guard sent its KC-135 tankers to a McConnell AFB, Kan..

On Aug. 26 even Westover airbase Hurrevac’d its fleet of large C-5s. Westover has 16 C-5 Bs assigned, whereas 2 C-5 As were temporarily on base. Two homeward-bound C-5 aircraft were diverted Aug. 25 and the remaining 16 C-5s on base are currently evacuating to MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Images: USAF

Aircraft spotters have reported NOAA weather reconnaissance flights (mainly Gulfstream IV-SP (G-IV) and Lockheed WP-3D Orion) coordinated by National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. Here’s the Plan of the Day for Aug. 26: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIAREPRPD.shtml?

53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” WC-130s are also reported to fly Hurricane recon missions out of Keesler AFB, Ms.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.