UK’s new Aerial Refueler grounded after Voyager plane plummets 2,000 feet

The incident involved one Royal Air Force’s Airbus 330 tanker returning from Afghanistan.

The UK’s fleet of brand new “Voyager” aerial refuelers has been grounded after a tanker, bringing 181 military to Afghanistan, suffered an incident in Turkey’s airspace.

Based on the first reports, the Royal Air Force’s modified Airbus 330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) was overflying Turkey on Sunday night, when it suddenly plummeted 2,000 feet.

A few passengers received minor injuries hence the aircraft performed an emergency landing at an unspecified divert field in Turkey.

The UK’s MoD decided to suspend the flying activitiy of all its Voyager aircraft until the incident is investigated.

Considered that the VC-10 tanker was retired in September 2013, the only remaining tanker aircraft in RAF service is the venerable Lockheed Tristar used for dual transport/tanker role; the type of aircraft that the Voyager was due to replace.

In March 2013, four RAF Eurofighter Typhoons deployed to Malaysia to take part to LIMA – Langkawi International Maritime & Aerospace Exhibition with the support provided by the Italian Air Force Boeing KC-767A: the Italian tanker has been involved in a “collective” aerial refueling certification activity, whose aim was develop common operational capacities that will enable “pooling and sharing” of important assets, including tankers.
This is not the first time an Airbus 330 (the Voyager is a military variant of the civilian plane) plummets some thousand feets while cruising at high altitude: for instance, in 2008, a Qantas A330 pitched nose-down and plunged about 650 feet in about 20 seconds (after a short climb) because of a failure in one of the ADIRUs (Air Data Inertial Reference Units) and a previously unknown software design limitation of aircraft’s fly-by-wire flight control primary computer (FCPC).
Image credit: UK MoD / Crown Copyright
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About David Cenciotti 3633 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.