The Army is paying a private contractor nearly $1.5 million to fly a commercial airliner from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a test facility in Maryland, just so it can blow the plane up.
In a contract finalized last week, Clear Sky Aviation, LLC of Tucson, Arizona agreed to deliver the Army a retired Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 777-268ER jet to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, according to a report by The Drive.
The plane will likely be used in testing called least risk bomb location (LRBL) the Army conducts on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, the report said.
LRBL experiments are designed to show airline crews the ideal place to toss an undetonated explosive to minimize damage to the plane and people onboard. Aircraft makers are not required to conduct LRBL experiments themselves, so DHS works with the Army to do the testing.
The Boeing 777 being used in the testing has been retired since August 2017. It has nearly 34,800 flight hours since rolling off the production line in 1998.
The aircraft was shot on video landing in Geneva, Switzerland two months before it was pulled out of service.
The original Army contract request called for a 777 of any subseries that could be pressurized to a representative level while on the ground for testing, the report said.
“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 Army contracting document stated. “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.”
The 777 is set to arrive at Aberdeen in November. It is unknown when testing on the plane will begin.