USAF F-35A Flight Operations Halted at Luke AFB, Oxygen Supply Problems Cited

Jun 10 2017 - 12 Comments
By Tom Demerly

Five Pilots Report Symptoms Similar to Hypoxia.

The U.S. Air Force has reported that flight operations for F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Luke AFB near Phoenix, Arizona in the United States have been temporarily halted.

USAF Brig. Gen Brook Leonard, commanding officer of the 56th Fighter Wing that operates the F-35A, said in a press release that, “In order to synchronize operations and maintenance efforts toward safe flying operations we have cancelled local F-35A flying.”

The announcement that appeared on the official Luke AFB website via the U.S. Air Force Office of Public Affairs stopped short of calling the temporary halt to flight operations a “grounding”.

It is possible Air Force officials are using caution in references to any halt in flight operations to avoid potential associations with a series of incidents on the F-22 Raptor from early 2012 with crew life support equipment, specifically the oxygen system. The incidents from 2012 led to a sensational expose’ on the U.S. investigative reporting show “60 Minutes” in which two Virginia Air National Guard pilots said the F-22 was unsafe to fly due to problems with its crew life support system. Additionally, in March of this year U.S. Navy officials told U.S. Congress there was an increase in “physiological episodes” in the long successful Boeing FA-18 Hornet.

The official Air Force news release reads, in part, “According to base officials, since May 2, 2017, five F-35A pilots assigned to Luke AFB have reported physiological incidents while flying. In each case, the aircraft’s backup oxygen system operated as designed and the pilot followed correct procedures, landing the aircraft safely.”

The Air Force statement went on to say, “Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms. Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”

Capt. Mark Graff, an official U.S. Air Force spokesman, said the temporary halt of F-35A flight operations was done, “not out of fear or out of danger, but out of an abundance of caution,” Capt. Graff also told news media that the Air Force plans to resume flight operations on Saturday.

The temporary halt of flight operations includes 55 of the U.S. Air Force F-35A’s at Luke AFB. The story is contrasted by a lengthy phase of successes for the F-35 program that include successful deliveries to international F-35 users like Japan and Israel, operational deployments of the U.S. Marine F-35B V/STOL version to Japan and major deployment of Air Force F-35As to Europe.


  • leroy

    The F-35 fleet has flown more than 90,000 hours. They’ve conducted thousands of sorties to get to this point. No crashes. 200+ aircraft built. Only five F-35A pilots assigned to Luke AFB have reported physiological incidents. They have backup 02 bottles attached to the back of their ejection seats (see link) should they think they’re experiencing hypoxia, which they are trained to recognize. An Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System will be installed by 2024. Is this much of a problem? No. Is it something that needs to be looked at? Yes. But all in all, the F-35 is progressing – in a single word – MAGNIFICENTLY! Better than any Russian fighter. Or Chinese. Iranian? Don’t make me laugh! : )

    Honeywell On-board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS):

  • Genesis

    Seems like the Russians dont have to shoot down this bucket as long as it kills its pilot

  • Can someone (anyone) explain to me why it seems ALL of America’s jet aircraft are experiencing the same problem??? Oxygen supply problems have been reported with the F-18, F-35, F-22, and T-45 in the past few months and years. What gives? Why can’t we fix this damn problem???

  • MrMaffy96

    When you think about it, the oxygen supply system is a “simple” part of the aircraft, how can certain problems still occur?

    • Because it is not as simple as you think it is. If you want simple, probably the only thing is the fuel tank.

      • MrMaffy96

        Compared to other parts of the aircraft, it’s simple.

        • Because you are comparing to other parts, and this doesn’t mean it is simple in the average sense.

          Also…6 months? Dude…

          • MrMaffy96

            I have tons of things to do :D
            What I was meaning is that compared to its jet engine, or its weapons system, the Oxygene Supply is simplier, one could expect something more complex to have failures.

  • Mongee Phase

    Hmm, same problems as the Raptor… Where is Leroy? LMAO

    • leroy

      Why the fascination with everyone’s friend Leroy?

      • Holztransistor

        Because you have been declared to be “our” propaganda minister. Or the equivalent of Comical Ali. Your choice.

  • Νίκος Ίος

    F22, F35, F18 Super Hornet oxygen problems? What is common on this triplet? The radiowave absorbing coating… Is there any “special issue”? It would be so easy to take the (proven) life-support systems of F16 or F15 and fix it? I’m sure that they already use almost the same… why? Because Super Hornet should have the (proven) system of the common F18! Why should they change it? They didn’t… They just modified it. There’s something MORE than the oxygen system. MY OPINION:
    Everyone who have been involved in a fighter service knows very well of the pure oxygen leaks during reloading and maintenance. We speak about lots of pure oxygen, that for some time (minutes or more) are flooding “pockets” in the aircraft’s structure. In a conventional aluminum plane nothing would happen. But in those “3” we have a special mysterious ORGANIC coating that is MAYBE is “eaten alive” by the pure oxygen. So we need a modified oxygen system…
    And here is the entrance point of the problem…