Col. Roderick Cregier, an F-35 test pilot stationed at Edwards AFB in California, stears the first Luke AFB Lightning II after touching the ground of its home on 10 March 2014 (Image © Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann / USAF)

F-35 on fire: damage hits 50 million USD

The fire that broke out on a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II in June 2014 not only ruined the type’s international show debut at both Fairford and Farnborough air show in the UK, but also caused  50 million USD worth of damage to the aircraft. The Accident Investigation Board released its report on 5 June.

A failure in the third-stage rotor of the Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine fan module caused the fire as the F-35 was rolling for take off at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on 23 June 2014. The pilot aborted the take off and quickly exited the aircraft. Emergency crews extinguished the fire.

Pieces of the failed rotor arm cut through the engine’s fan case, the engine bay, an internal fuel tank, plus  hydraulic and fuel lines before exiting through the aircraft’s upper fuselage. The damage caused leaking fuel and hydraulic fluid to ignite and burn the rear two thirds of the aircraft.

The fault that caused the fire was identified earlier and according to reports a  fix should be implemented into the entire existing F-35 Lightning II fleet by this time next year.

The fire led to a temporary grounding of the entire F-35 fleet, prohibiting three aircraft from crossing the Atlantic and taking part in two airshows in the UK, which would have marked the fighter aircraft’s international airshow debut. The no-show was an embarrassment to Lockheed Martin and the entire international F-35 program, the total cost of which exceeds 400 billion USD.

© 2015 editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image:A US Air Force F-35A. (Image © Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann / USAF)