The US has grounded its entire F-35 Lightning II fleet on Thursday 3 July following the incident at Eglin Air Force Base in which aircraft caught fire before take off. It is now indeed very much in doubt if the F-35 is able to make its European airshow debut at Fairford and Farnborough, as Airheadsfly.com stated earlier. The grounding is a huge blow to the aircraft’s and Lockheed Martin’s reputation.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but inspections of all Pratt & Whitney F-135 engines have to be carried out. The inspection results and analysis of engineering data may lead to the F-35 being able to fly again, but it is unclear what the time frame will be. The grounding also affects two Dutch and three UK F-35s currently at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
An F-35A sustained damage on 23 June when it prepared for take off at Eglin. A fire broke out near the rear of the aicraft as it was on the runway. The pilot was able to exit the aircraft unharmed, but the F-35 was apparently heavily damaged, leaving debris spread over the Eglin runway.
The grounding is the second such safety measure in a few weeks. The entire US fleet was kept on the ground for a short period in June after a F-35B suffered an in-flight oil problem while flying from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma in Arizona. In 2013, the entire fleet was also temporarily grounded due to engine issues.
Up to four F-35Bs were expected in the UK this week, and their failure to show up was causing concerns already. The aircraft were to be the stars at airshow at Fairford and Farnborough. The Pentagon reports that preparations for F-35 jets to fly to the UK air shows are ongoing, but the reality is that the F-35 will probably be a sitting duck and is already suffering a huge blow to an already questionable reputation.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest