Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday will visit Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, scene of an F-35 fire last week that has put the Joint Strike Fighter’s first international flight at the Farnborough Air Show in doubt.
“He looks forward to hearing from the folks on the ground” on what caused the fire before takeoff that forced the pilot to flee the aircraft, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, on Tuesday.
The fire in the back end of the aircraft, which many suspect was caused by the engine, forced the grounding of the entire F-35 fleet as the engineers still search for the cause of the fire. The grounding was announced on July 3.
Kirby confirmed on Tuesday that the Pentagon has still not decided on whether the F-35 would perform at Farnborough, but with each hour without a decision it makes the F-35 flight to London less likely.
“There has not been a decisions made on that yet,” Kirby said when asked about the F-35 flying at Farnborough as originally scheduled. “We’d be disappointed” if the F-35 did not go to the air show, Kirby said.
The engine fire was the latest in a series of design and performance problems for the F-35. Kirby said these types of problems are not “atypical for a new aircraft.” He stressed that the Defense Department was still “fully committed to the F-35 program.”