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F-35 Forced to Land in Texas but Up Again in the US

By Kelly Ni
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 12, 2013 Last Updated: March 12, 2013
Related articles: United States » National News
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A F-35 fighter jet was forced to land in Texas after a caution light appeared on in the cockpit, but in Florida the F-35 is flying again after a being on a “cautionary suspension.”

The F-35 Lightning II jet can fly again as of March 1 in the U.S. after a short-lived “cautionary suspension” which kept the fighter jet on the ground.

A crack in one engine caused the Dept. of Defense (DOD) to ground all F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jets. The ban was lifted on March 1.

The cracked turbine blade in an engine on a single plane resulted from overuse in test operations, according to Kyra Hawn, an official with the F-35 Joint Program Office, reported the DOD.

“An engine blade crack discovered at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Feb. 19 caused the entire joint strike fighter fleet to be grounded. Before that, the F-35B was grounded due to a fuel leak at Eglin,” the Elgin Air Force Base wrote in a news release.

“As with any new weapons system, we expect to learn things about the aircraft and the system over time and we are doing just that,” stated Col. Andrew Toth, 33rd Fighter Wing commander. “The great part about that is we have a fully integrated team from the Joint Program Office all the way down to the 33rd FW, making appropriate decisions to ensure we can continue safe and effective flying operations.”

It was the sixth time one or all variants of the F-35 had been grounded at Elgin Air Force Base, according to North West Florida Daily News.

“Temporary set-backs are a routine part of developing any new technology,” said Toth. “The wing will continue with safe and effective operations. The F-35 training environment at Eglin is a first and it prepares our students for what they will face on the 21st century battlefield--working in joint and coalition environments. The F-35, most importantly, assures the future of U.S. and coalition air power.”

The blade underwent comprehensive tests at the Pratt and Whitney facility in Middletown, Conn., which makes the engines.

“The engine in question is part of the F-35 test aircraft fleet and had been operated for extended time in the high-temperature environment in its mission to expand the F-35 flight envelope,” Pratt and Whitney wrote in a news release. “Prolonged exposure to high levels of heat and other operational stressors on this specific engine were determined to be the cause of the crack,” it stated.

No additional cracks were found during the fighter jet-grounding season, according to Pratt and Whitney.

In Texas the F-35 jet was part of the Air Force’s new fleet of fighter jets. It was flying from a Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Nellis Air Force Base acquired two F-35 Lightning IIs on Mar. 8. The airmen at the station have been preparing and training for the new fighter jets for years.

“We’re doing all kinds of prep,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Sarafin, the Lightning AMU F-35 dedicated crew chief, according to the Nellis Air Force Base news release on Mar. 8. “We’ve sent [servicemembers] out to Patuxent River in Maryland, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Edwards AFB in California all to get hands-on training because we didn’t have the jets here yet.”

“I’ve worked on F-15Cs and F-22s,” Sarafin said. “The F-22 is what I’ve worked on the most, and there are a lot of similarities between the F-22 and F-35. I think [the F-35] is a great jet, its maintenance friendly, but there are a lot of new things,” he said, adding that there are going to be some challenges.

“Our maintenance documentation is a lot different [for] this jet, our training system – everything,” Sarafin said.

The airmen had to learn how to use the Autonomic Logistics Information System to document all aircraft maintenance and training the maintainer receive.

But the Lockheed maintenance team from the Texas F-35 factory went to inspect and repair the F-35 that landed on the way to the base in Nevada.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive Pentagon weapons program and the largest procurement program in the Department of Defense (DOD).

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), also called the Lightning II, is a new aircraft being procured in different versions for the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

The defense budget requested about $5.8 billion in 2013 for funding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, according to a 2012 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress on the program. 

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