Returning UK soldiers grounded for 48 hours in defence ministry tire farce
ERJ staff report (BC)
London – Hundreds of battle-weary troops flying home from Afghanistan endured a 48-hour delay at a sweltering Middle East airbase because of a “farcical” row over an aircraft's damaged tire, Ian Drury of the Daily Mail has reported.
“Box-ticking” military chiefs are said to have refused to allow the Royal Air Force (RAF) Voyager transport plane's crew to swap a damaged tire with one from a nearby international airport – because it would breach a £10.5 billion (€12 billion) private-finance deal, passengers claimed they were told.
Instead, top brass sent a team with a new wheel on a 5470km trip from the UK to the Gulf, delaying more than 250 soldiers from seeing their families after six months fighting the Taliban.
The event happened on 16 July as the troops, including 100 members of the Royal Artillery, travelled from Kandahar to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, via the United Arab Emirates.
As they prepared to depart Al Minhad Air Base, the Voyager was forced to abort take-off after striking a bird, puncturing a tire which was replaced with a spare carried on board.
However, during the emergency landing a second tire was damaged and needed to be replaced before the plane could take off.
The disgruntled troops – already three days late returning to Britain because of a broken-down plane in Afghanistan – were herded into huts where temperatures are reported to have touched a stifling 42°C.
Because the Voyagers are militarised versions of the Airbus A330-200 passenger jets, the RAF crew tried to source a new tire from an international airport in Dubai, but this was vetoed by senior military officers in the UK as invalidate the aircraft's warranty under a private-finance project and costing the Ministry of Defence extra money.
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Full story from Daily Mail