Watch: RAF Tanker Carrying 80 Tons of Fuel Has Tire Blow During Takeoff

The air-to-air refueler was participating in the ongoing ‘Red Flag’ combat training exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The RAF Voyager air-to-air refueler’s tire blew out while participating in the ‘Red Flag’ exercise in support of British and U.S. fighter jets. [Courtesy: Royal Air Force]

The crew of a Royal Air Force (RAF) Voyager in the U.S. for a joint training exercise suffered a scare recently when one of the tires of the aerial tanker carrying 80 tons of fuel blew out during takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The aircraft and crew are in the U.S. participating in the large-scale  "Red Flag-Nellis 24-1" intensive fighter training underway in Nevada. The realistic combat training exercise has nearly 2,000 participants, about 100 aircraft, and personnel from 30 U.S. and allied units, including the RAF and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). 

The Voyager air-to-air refueler is participating in the Red Flag exercise to support British and U.S. fighter jets. 

[Courtesy: Royal Air Force]

"[While] hurtling along the runway in Nevada with a takeoff speed of around 160 mph, the tire of the 204-ton jet, laden with 80 tons of fuel, failed," RAF said in a statement Saturday.

The aircraft, which is capable of carrying nearly 300 passengers, also had a small number of British and allied passengers on board.

"The crew felt some minor vibrations early on, as per a routine takeoff, but were unaware of the seriousness of the incident and the take-off continued safely," RAF said.

Video footage of the incident (posted below) shows the moment the tire failed.

Voyager and Tornados over Iraq. [Courtesy: Royal Air Force]

Once airborne, the aircraft's tire pressure sensors indicated there were faults with two tires, RAF said. The crew confirmed the damage using the Voyager's external cameras and also contacted a U.S. Air Force F-16 in the exercise to conduct a visual inspection.

"This was my first flight in charge of the cabin with passengers onboard," said RAF Corporal Jaz Lawton, cabin supervisor on the aircraft. "It was a shock to learn that the tire had burst, but my training kicked in, and I worked with the pilots and other crew to keep the passengers updated and reassure them.”

The crew then devised a plan for returning the aircraft to the ground.

"To minimize the risks of landing with damaged wheels, the crew extended their sortie to reduce the amount of fuel and, therefore, weight on board,” RAF said. “This also provided time for all the fighter jets to return to base before the Voyager, as it was possible that it might damage the runway when it landed."

Tanker pilots landed the aircraft safely and—after an inspection by U.S. Air Force firefighters— were able to slowly taxi to their parking space, where they replaced the wheel. The aircraft and crew rejoined the exercise the next day.

[Courtesy: Royal Air Force]

Red Flag 24-1 is set to conclude Friday.

RAF Voyager Tire Blows Out During Takeoff

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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