Tag Archives: F-35 grounding

(Almost) All F-35 Joint Strike Fighters Grounded Worldwide Following September 28 Crash

Suspected Fuel Problem Results in Grounding of Joint Strike Fighter. Not all of them actually…

All Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters were ordered grounded on Thursday, October 12, 2018 for safety inspections of their fuel flow systems following the September 28, 2018 crash of a U.S. Marine F-35B Lightning II in Beaufort, South Carolina. It was the first crash of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter since the worldwide program, the largest defense contract in history, began flying in 2006.

“The U.S. Services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft,” the F-35 Joint Program Office announced in a statement Thursday morning.

The grounding of the F-35 fuels criticism of the program that has been under scrutiny from the start due to cost and program delays. The Joint Strike Fighter program has been characterized as the most expensive defense program in history. A Pentagon study claimed the entire program may exceed $1 trillion USD including maintenance for the entire fleet over its lifespan, not accounting for inflation.

Developed during the emergence of social media, the F-35 program has been a lightning rod for public criticism of defense spending. Recent analytics on TheAviationist.com’s Facebook page reveal that a September 28 story about the first F-35 crash attracted over ten times as many “Likes” than a previous story earlier that week about the first combat mission flown by the U.S. in an F-35. The analytics strongly suggest readers are more attracted to negative news about the F-35 than positive reports about the program.



The fleet-wide grounding of the aircraft is expected to be short-term according to a statement released today by the F-35 program office.

Actually, not all the F-35s have been eventually grounded.

“The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources” Lara Seligman reported. Indeed, the Italian F-35A aircraft were reportedly flying today’s late afternoon, launching from Decimomannu, Sardinia, where they are currently deployed to undertake air-to-ground and CAS (Close Air Support) training.

Same for the British F-35B jets, involved in the flight trials from HMS Queen Elizabeth:

The Israeli have halted their operations with the F-35I Adir.

“If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status. Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.”

In its official statement on Thursday morning the program office went on to say the grounding of all F-35s worldwide, “is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on 28 September. The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available.”

Top Image: file photo of U.S. F-35A Lightning II. All versions of the aircraft have been temporarily grounded according to official statements (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com.)

In spite of flight ban F-35 could still attend UK airshows

Even if nothing has been decided yet, it looks like the F-35 could still be able to attend Farnborough International Airshow in the UK.

As the fleet remains grounded by a flight ban announced on Jul. 3 following the Jun. 23 engine fire experienced by an F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, it may be possible that some F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft can be allowed to attend the two most important season’s airshows in the UK.

As many as four F-35s (three from the U.S. Marine Corps and a British one) were scheduled to take part in Royal International Air Show (RIAT) and Farnborough Airshow (FIA) near London. But, whereas it seems at least unlikely the aircraft can make it to RAF Fairford for RIAT, there could be some chances the aircraft could eventually attend FIA 2014, a major showcase which attracts aerospace companies and potential customers from all around the world.

F-35B turn

Indeed, while investigation into the cause of the engine fire continues and the rest of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Royal Air Force F-35s remain grounded, according to DefenseNews, the Marines may decide to allow their F-35B jets to cross the Pond, making happy aviation enthusiasts and…Lockheed Martin, facing the umpteenth issue with the troubled fifth generation aircraft.

“As part of that, there is the possibility NAVAIR would allow for return to flight before the Air Force or the UK did depending how they analyze and accept that data and manage risk,” Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman for the F-35 joint program office, told to DefenseNews’s Aaron Mehta.

Therefore, even if U.S. Air Force and UK will not lift the flight ban in time for the airshows, the U.S. Marine Corps may decide it is ok for them to fly the jump jet aircraft overseas.

As said, nothing has been decided yet. Considering that RIAT opens this weekend, the participation to FIA appears at least a bit more likely. But, who’s going to accept the risk to allow the aircraft to fly in spite of a fleet-wide grounding and investigation underway?

Can you imagine the impact of an incident on the reputation of the much debated aircraft?

Image credit: Tony Lovelock