F-35s return to flight. But they can’t attend Farnborough airshow in the UK

Grounding has been lifted with some restrictions. That’s why the F-35Bs will not be able to cross the Ocean to attend the Farnborough International Airshow.

On Jul. 15, the Pentagon announced the fleet wide grounding has been lifted after investigation on the issue that caused the engine fire on an F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) on Jun. 23 did not highlight a systemic problem.

The root cause of the fire has been identified in excessive rubbing between the turbine blades and the cowling, a problem not endemic to the fleet, based on the inspections of the other F-35 engines;  still something that must be closely monitored.

That’s why the return to flight is restricted: the F-35s can’t fly faster than Mach 0.9 and are limited to 18 degrees of angle of attack. The envelope is limited from -1 G to +3 Gs and, above all, after three hours of flight time, each front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.

Therefore, the aircraft can’t undertake a long range ferry flight across the Pond and for this reason the four F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off and Landing) currently stuck on the ground at NAS Patuxent River (three of those expected to fly to Europe along with a RAF F-35B out of Eglin Air Force Base) will not be able to attend FIA 2014 in the UK.

The official cancellation of the FIA participation brought speculations and rumors, confirmations and denials, to an end.

F-35 to depart

Image credit: U.S. Navy / NAS Patuxent River


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Is that a Knight on it’s tail? I would’ve thought a pawn would be more apt. I pity the nations who have brought this jet, in hindsight I’m sure many of them regret it now.

    • Can you explain what other 5th Gen get they should have purchased for this mission? Let me answer that for you, there isn’t one. This is why every government is lining up for it despite the cost and development problems.

      • How many of the nations (Italy, Netherlands, Norway for exemple) involved really need a 5th generation jet fighter? Do their geopolitical interests justify this expense? Or maybe they can stick with some 4+ gen fighters, already developed so less expensive, still up to date and available now?

      • They could have opted for a number of 4++ gen aircraft that far exceed it in most areas except stealth (overrated nowadays anyway); and are far cheaper. Rafale, Gripen, MiG-35 & F/A-18 Adv S. Hornet are all advanced multirole fighters that would suit any of the F-35’s international customers.

        Do you really expect many of it’s smaller customers to require a super-stealthy strike-fighter for deep SEAD suppression, cause that’s about the only role the F-35 would fill properly. It’s far too fragile and expensive for CAS, and over-kill for regular bombing runs in uncontested airspace despite LM’s claims.

        • If stealth is so underrated, one has to wonder why US rivals like China and Russia are working frantically to develop stealth aircraft of their own. It’s even more confusing when you consider that the PAK FA has basically no maneuverability advantage over the 4++ gen Sukhois and Migs yet Russia and India are forking over hundreds of billions in the development process.

          • The days of dogfighting are over. The weapon systems are more important than the actual planes today.

      • F-35 is not true 5th generation. and the 5th generation qualities that it does have, for the most part hinder its performance or aren’t operational yet.
        A country like Canada does not need the 5th generation properties that the F-35 possesses.
        We would be far better off to drop NATO and buy some Su-35s

        • Canada doesn’t need any fighters because they’re wussies who let The Americans do all the work. Seriously, why waste money on jets you’re never going to use?

  2. Because they’ve spent too much money & time to let it fail now. Many major Western allies had already brought into it when the project was new, before some of the newer clients (Netherlands, Norway etc) opted-in, as these nations wanted a multirole plane that was easy to integrate with their bigger partners.

    As I’ve stated in my above reply, there are plenty of far better and more practical alternatives, LM is simply lying when it claims only their fighter is worth getting. look at the Canadian acquisition process, it merely shows LM has a political monopoly, not a technological one.

  3. Too bad the people attending the airshow will miss out on seeing the F-35 demonstrate its slow turn rate, large turn radius, and slow rate of roll. LOL

    • Good we want our enemies to be overconfident unfortunately for them they’ll be dead before they know what hit them. Good luck with your Eurotrash fighters.

  4. “F-35 fails miserably compared to it’s predecessors in this area.”

    I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. When you judge the F-35 against the planes it was designed to replace (Vipers and Hornets) it stands up pretty well. Actual F-35 test pilots have publicly stated that a full internal load F-35 will outrun a clean F-16 with only Mil power. They’ve also said that it has far better high AOA performance than the F-16, and comparable roll rates.

    Of course the F-35 is going to come up short in maneuverability compared to a 4++ gen thrust vectoring SU-35. It’s a different class of aircraft.. dual engine, much more power, and much much bigger. Sukhois are even big compared to F-15’s and F-22’s, so that’s a very silly comparison to make.

    Last thing. I would argue that for years the Russians have been pinning all their hopes on maneuverability.. to the detriment of avionics, reliability, operating costs, and stealth. Sure maneuverability is cool and it makes for a great air show, but low speed acrobatics aren’t going to do you a whole lot of good in a BVR fight with missiles that can rip 30 G turns without breaking a sweat. Bottom line: in modern air combat, you simply will not be able to out-run or out-turn a missile. However, you might be able to jam it, or be stealthy enough the enemy doesn’t shoot it in the first place.

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