The U.S. Army Is Going to Blow Up This Ex-Saudi Airlines Boeing 777 Jet
The service has a deal with Department of Homeland Security to collect data about how vulnerable commercial aircraft are to explosives.
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BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK - JUNE 1, 2018
The service has a deal with Department of Homeland Security to collect data about how vulnerable commercial aircraft are to explosives. The U.S. Army has hired a private contractor to fly an old Boeing 777 airliner from Saudi Arabia to the United States just so it can blow it apart. It may sound like a piece of the conspiracy at the center of a Hollywood spy thriller, but it's actually part of an arrangement to help the Department of Homeland Security see how the plane might respond to a terrorist's bomb or some other explosive incident.
On May 31, 2018, the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland announced that it had finalized the contract, worth nearly $1.5 million, with Clear Sky Aviation, LLC of Tucson, Arizona via the U.S. government's main contracting website, FedBizOpps. Under the terms of the deal, the company will fly the Ex-Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 777-268ER jet, which has tail number HZ-AKF, from that country's capital Riyadh to Phillips Airfield at Aberdeen. The firm is also supplying four cargo sections from scrapped Boeing 747 jumbo jet airliners for additional destructive testing.
The "Aberdeen Test Center (ATC) is required to acquire and conduct commercial aircraft vulnerability testing in accordance with their interagency agreement … with [the] U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)," an earlier contracting document explained. "ATC intends to use the aircraft solely for destructive testing purposes and agrees that it will not allow the aircraft, nor any of its component parts, to be used on any other aircraft by any party."
HZ-AKF looks to have been a good candidate for the Army's needs. It rolled off Boeing's production line in 1998 and has flown almost 34,800 flight hours already. The jet has been sitting in storage in Riyadh since August 2017.
In their quote, Clear Sky Aviation noted they were in the process of acquiring other 777s that might have had even higher flight hours and that it could substitute one of those for HZ-AKF if the Army was amendable. We don't know whether or not ATC chose to accept an alternative airframe.
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