Air Force One's mechanics caused $4m of damage on presidential plane with potentially deadly repairs

Boeing staff used contaminated tools during testing that could have caused mid-flight fires 

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The Independent Online

Three Boeing mechanics working on one of two planes that transport President Donald Trump and others in his position have used contaminated tools during testing that caused $4 million in damage and could have caused mid-flight fires on the aircraft, a federal investigation says.

The three mechanics were checking for leaks in oxygen systems on Air Force One last year when they used tools, parts, and an unauthorised cleaning procedure. The damages were paid for by Boeing and are a part of a contract for heavy maintenance on the Air Force One fleet between the company and the US Air Force.

Mechanics working on the planes need to use tools and parts that are cleaned in a specific way to remove any residue that could react with oxygen upon contact, potentially igniting in-flight fires or even an explosion. The tools and parts, after the specialised cleaning, can only be exposed to oxygen for a short time - anywhere between two and five minutes - before they need to be cleaned again.

Here’s what happened: One mechanic gave another contaminated tools and parts to work with and said they were clean. The second later learned that the tools had been exposed to air for too long. The first mishap mechanic also gave the second some cleaning fluid at one point and said, “Here [is] some cleaning fluid. Do with it what you want. Use it if you want, but I don’t know anything about it,” according to the report.

The third mechanic helped find contaminated parts in the process.

The fluid in question could have been successfully used to clean the tools but the mechanics weren’t privy to proper techniques. They then cleaned their tools in the wrong way before working on passenger and medical oxygen systems on board.

Boeing said in a written statement to CNN that it "fully understands the level of responsibility that comes from working on the President's aircraft." And, "We took swift action to self-report the incident to the US Air Force. The oxygen system was remediated by Boeing at no cost to the government."

The incident happened at a time when Boeing was behind schedule on maintenance and was requiring employees to work mandatory 12-hour shifts. Workers were working six and seven days in a row, sometimes without a day off for weeks.

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