Pentagon says temporary pause in F-35 flights following Sept. 28 crash
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon on Thursday ordered a temporary pause in all F-35 fighter jet flights in order to inspect the fleet in the wake of a crash last month in South Carolina.
The decision involves a potentially bad fuel tube and affects more than 250 U.S.-owned jets, as well as nearly 100 that belong to other nations including Britain. About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, and they include aircraft owned by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
According to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, some of the fighter jets have been inspected and are flying again.
The decision temporarily halted combat operations by Marines, who began conducting airstrikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan the day before the crash. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fly different versions of the stealthy fighter. Officials said they were not able to confirm if the Marine planes were able yet to resume operations.
A Marine F-35B crashed into an uninhabited marsh island near the Grays Hill community in South Carolina on Sept. 28. The Marine pilot safely ejected before the crash.
During the crash investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. Until 2015, two companies manufactured the tubes, and the problem involves just one of them. If the aircraft has those particular tubes, they will be replaced. If the aircraft has good fuel tubes, it will be allowed to begin immediately flying again.
The F-35 program office said the inspections should be completed in one or two days. Depending on the availability of parts, the fuel tube can be replaced quickly.
John Thomas, spokesman for engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, based in Connecticut, said the company is supporting the Marine Corps investigation into the crash. Because of the ongoing investigation, he said he had no comment on the specifics of the flight disruption.
An F-35 Lightning fighter jet from NAS Lemoore made an emergency landing in Fresno on Sept. 24, 2018.
FOX26 News captured the below video of the plane in Fresno.
The Pentagon released the following statement:
F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, Pentagon:
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. 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.
The Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter Wing is running a flight schedule today in Lemoore, CA using aircraft that have already completed and passed the inspection and have returned to flight status. We expect to be fully complete with the inspection process within the next 24 to 48 hours.
We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners.