Pentagon: F-35 Grounding Lifted with Restrictions

Pentagon: F-35 Grounding Lifted with Restrictions

FARNBOROUGH, England — The U.S. Defense Department on Tuesday announced it has lifted the fleet-wide grounding of the F-35 fighter jet, dramatically raising hopes that the fifth-generation stealth fighter will make its international debut here this week after all.

Flight restrictions on the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made aircraft remain in place as officials investigate the cause of an engine fire last month that significantly damaged one of the aircraft and led to the grounding, according to statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby. The news was first reported by Andrea Shalal of Reuters.

“Yesterday the air worthiness authorities for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force approved the F-35 fleet to return to flight,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “This is a limited flight clearance that includes an engine inspection regimen and a restricted flight envelope which will remain in effect until the root cause of the June 23 engine mishap is identified and corrected.”

“We remain hopeful that the F-35 can make an appearance at the Farnborough airshow,” Kirby added. “This information is an encouraging step, but no final decision has been made at this time.”

The move comes a day after Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, and Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, denied reports that F-35B jump-jet variants standing by at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland would leave Tuesday for the Farnborough International Air Show, one of the world’s biggest air shows taking place this week outside London.

Bogdan, however, did say the four planes on the flight line at Pax River, including three Marine Corps and one Royal Air Force aircraft, were in effect on a 24-hour alert, ready to make the transatlantic flight on moment’s notice.

“The minute they are cleared, they will launch,” he said during a press conference on Monday.

The entire F-35 fleet has been grounded since July 3 following a June 23 engine fire aboard an F-35A conventional Air Force model at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The fire was traced to excessive rubbing of fan blades in a section of the Pratt & Whitney-made F135 engine known as the integrally bladed rotor. While subsequent inspections revealed similar rubbing in several other engines, the phenomenon was far milder than in the engine that caught fire, leading Kendall and others to conclude the problem is not systemic.

Pax River’s official Facebook page on Sunday posted a comment beneath a photo of the four aircraft parked on the flight line stating, “Slated to leave Tuesday morning.” That set off media speculation that the F-35Bs would arrive at Farnborough late Tuesday in time for an appearance at the event on Wednesday.

The F-35Bs were scheduled to attend multiple events this month in the United Kingdom as part of their first public appearances abroad. Even the roughly 7-hour transatlantic trip itself would be a milestone, as the longest flight recorded by any F-35 stands at 5.8 hours.

The scheduled events included a fly-over on July 4 at Rosyth Dockyard, Scotland, as part of a naming ceremony for the new British aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth; a static display last week at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force Fairford; and an aerial demonstration this week at Farnborough. The grounding caused the aircraft to miss the first two of those events and, so far, the first two days of the Farnborough show.

The appearances were designed in part to send a message to international partners and potential buyers that the single-engine fighter has rounded the corner in terms of development. The program, which began development in the 1990s, has been plagued by design challenges, cost overruns and schedule delays.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program, estimated to cost nearly $400 billion for 2,443 aircraft. Keeping the planes flying over the next half-century may cost another $1 trillion in sustainment.

Eight countries have committed to help develop the F-35, including the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Also, Israel, Japan and South Korea plan to buy production models of the aircraft.

The U.K. was reportedly set to sign a contract Friday at RIAT for 14 F-35Bs for the country’s first squadron, but delayed the deal presumably because of the grounding and the plane’s failure to show up at the event as planned.

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Brings a new meaning to the idiom ” The fix was in.” Reuters prematurely announced the lifting over the weekend (and pulled the story.) A Facebook entry at Pax River’s page prematurely announced the lifting on Sunday (and then removed it.) There are forces at work to get these aircraft to Farnborough at any cost. The problem is that it seems that there are also forces at work to do the prudent thing.…

Wow, they’re cheating. They still have no idea what the root cause of the mishap was and they cleared it to fly anyway. If this keeps up, this program is going to kill someone.

“Cheating?” There is pressure for sure but I’d say the Chinese stealing God-only-knows what sort of info from our programs is the real cheating going on these days.

Say what you want about the high costs of the program but to date the safety record is still excellent by historical standards there is a total of well over 15,000 flight hours accumulated now with one of the early LRIP aircraft used heavily in tests up to over 1,000 flight hours on its own. The chances of something going wrong at the show are extremely slim.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying they’re cheating. They figured out that it was excessive friction on the stator fins. And they determined that the other engines (once inspected) should be fine to fly so long as the stator fins aren’t rubbing as much. Seems like fine engineering to me. No rub excessive rubbing (they’re designed to rub after all), no immediate danger to the pilot or vehicle. Now why the engines have that issue in the first place will require a more detailed investigation into Pratt’s manufacturing process. I’m sure this will result in a medication to the production process. It’s reliability engineering 101 (infant mortality).

They have to sell this billion dollar boon dongle to break even so Lockheed and senators probably forced them to release some for the airshow season. But hey if one crashes at a air show they blame some persona for it probably.

Can you help us understand what a “stator fin” is? Thank you.


they have had a very long time and a very big budget and still have problems like this? Should have been worked out long ago. I surely hope no one dies so we can get this POS to the airshow.

Basically a stator is a stationary blade as opposed to a rotor blade, which, naturally, rotates. The bigger problem is typically when the rotor blades rub.

Some people are under the misconception this is about something other than MONEY. When it comes to a pilot’s life or money, the money always wins. To be clear, this is not a system I’m advocating. Just stating what I’ve observed. The last time I said, “you f’ing can’t fly that you’ll kill someone” the pilot didn’t actually die, he’s just permanently disabled. You have no idea how that pisses me off.

Yep, stator blades are supposed to rub a bit, just not too much. This seems like a relatively easy fix. Probably addressed with tolerances during manufacturing of components.

No they are going to have to redesign the stage — just as the had to redesign the stage in front.

Semantics, a change in tolerancing during component manufacturing can be considered a redesign. This can be redesigned with a change in tooling, materials, process. Who knows? Certainly not you or I.

Its another damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario. Follow the $$$ and you find the motive behind the decision made. If things go wrong (e.g. death or injury) due to the decision to give the OK to fly the planes, those people making the decision to fly will need to be held accountable — up to and including serious charges of negligent endangerment/death of any person involved. Only by holding people responsible who make these decisions can we begin to change the mindset associated by the lure of the $$$.

Was Boeing ‘cheating” when they had to have a NATOPS restriction because they were unable to fix potential unrecoverable flight issues with the Super Hornet? Or when they angled the pylons outboard to avoid the aircraft hitting itself with its own bombs, causing it to miss its range target by even more? Or when they called the performance projections “guidelines” when the Super Hornet couldn’t meet them?

This is not a game, it is engineering. When something breaks, you figure it out and make fixes. In this case, they inspected the entire fleet and determined precisely one, low hour engine had the problem. Do they need to know the root cause? Sure, but none of the other engines exhibit the same problem so it is not critical for the existing fleet. They may never know the cause, but they know the symptom. The solution may be to simply inspect at x hrs and if the engine has the issue, replace it. But the one thing you can be sure of is that it is probably not a fleetwide problem, since none of the other engines had this problem which appears to occur very early on or doesn’t appear at all.

This is not even close to being unusual. Recall the A380 engine fire. They identified the cause as the engine tolerances in the RR ngine, made fixes to the engine production line, added inspections to the other engines, and kept flying the aircraft. Or another one is cracking. As of last count I have seen, the navy is tracking 18 separate cracking issues on the Super Hornet (which is actually quite good). Should they scrap the program because it has some unexpected cracking (similiar to the A-6, A-10, and F-15 just to name a few)?

Like back-in-the-day when the F-8’s front landing gear was failing on carrier/cabled landings from the “punch” weight and overheating on their “money saving” five-pad system. Engineering notes and test data showed the F-8’s weight and landing speeds needed a SEVEN-PAD array to make it work. After a few test pilot funerals/hospitalizations and scrapped aircraft, JAG nailed the corporate pogeys behind closed doors. The nose gear was “slightly” enlarged to the seven-pad design. Problem FINALLY solved.

You’re an idiot.

To be clear, when I said that they were cheating, I define cheating in this case as breaking rules and regulations that we have upheld for years for the purpose of protecting pilot’s lives or loss of the aircraft. They are supposed to find the root cause before sending this jet back into the air. It was a Class A Mishap. The investigation should have gone on longer and the grounding should have gone on longer, at the very least until the root cause was determined.


That is NOT the case with what is happening right now for the F-35. Instead, it is clearly being allowed to fly only because it would miss a major marketing opportunity if it did. It’s not about making a good warplane for the armed forces, it’s not about what’s good for America. This program is only about making money off people they can turn into fools. Unfortunately that includes Congress as a whole and they pay with taxpayer dollars.

I have to say that I am not really sure what it imply that there were rubbing found in other engines. I assume that hydrodynamic lubrication create more problems there than a very small amount of friction which AFAIK is mechanically the most efficient. Then what does that rubbing mean? In level expected to be found in higher flight-hour engine but still fully operational? Not expected at all but not to a dangerous level? Or else?

If a f-135 flying in Florida produce more rubbing than expected then what is going to happen when it operate in the Artic? Or any harsh environment so to speak.

I always thought it looked like the SH’s wing pylons were angled out. I just assumed it was an optical illusion — or bad Mk 1’s…

A long time ago, the new General Dynamics B-58 Hustler was lost at the show in England. None of those delta wing medium bombers were sold to any nation. In fact, only the A model was operational and the production was limited to about 100 units. However, the aircraft broke all kinds of records and put the USSR on notice.

Now if this were in the old USSR a little trip to the local hardware store for some flat washers/spacers and the problem would be fixed plus the news wouldn’t be blasted all over the airwaves. Come on Obama, you got to tighten up your ship. Too many loose lips in your Pravda news agency. Your DHS not so secret police suck at keeping a secret and where is your NSA when you really need them?? You’re even making Vladimir blush with embarrassment for your inept handling of this situation. Would you like to borrow a few SU-35’s to send to the Limey airshow just to save a little face?

So many people here seem to be so well read into the subject, but how many have actually worked in R&D? Until the F-35 is handed off to all of the services for complete usage, it is still in R&D. Those of us who have worked the long hours in R&D to make the birds fly right know what I am talking about. Sometimes, it was just go to work and finally get off to get a few hours sleep before going back. It wasn’t just the engineers, it was us military also.


Keep defending this flying white elephant LMT trolls…

The same BS has been said about the F-14, F-15, and F-22 just to name a few. Do you think the Russians never encountered challenges during the development of their aircraft? Or the Chinese or Europeans for that matter? The Russians and Chinese are simply able to keep the problems they’ve had to overcome quiet until years later if ever.

The Su-27 Flanker which the trolls here love so much itself started out as the disastrous T-10 which had to undergo almost a total redesign.

>a change in tolerancing during component manufacturing can be considered a redesign

only if you know nothing about manufacturing.

Damn, that’s got to play hell with the drag counts. It’s like flying with a parachute deployed, especially at high transonic speeds.

It also spun like a top if it lost an outboard engine when supersonic. Well, it spun until it disintegrated. None the less, it was quite a hot rod. The thing is, in those days the USAF wasn’t all about the defense contractors making the maximum amount of profit possible like they are now. Airplanes weren’t as safe, but these were cutting edge aircraft, going where no airplane had gone before, and if safety was compromised it was because our nation faced a real and credible threat of annihilation from the Soviet Union, not so someone could put a few more dollars in their bank account.

In my case it wouldn’t have cost anything to fix the problem when I told them it was a problem. It was really just some lead engineer who was going to do it his way because he knew he’d never be held accountable for his actions. The US lost an airplane, a pilot lost his career and much of his quality of life, and the contractor I worked for made money off of fixing the problem they caused in the first place. So everyone was happy.

It’s Official: F-35 Not Flying To Farnborough http://​www​.defensenews​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​2​0​1​4​0​7​1​5​/​S​H​OWS

Sanity prevails!

No idea what the percent increase is, but it has been at least a decade later and I’ve got to wonder why they’ve never found a better fix.

I may be an idiot, but I understand risk mitigation and engineering, something you clearly do not.


Not true, the A380 incident is illustrative here.
1. They had a problem with one engine that resulted in a fire, very similar to the F-35.
2. They grounded the fleet until they knew what the problem was. In this case, it involved the tolerances on the RR engine (sound familiar?).
3. They inspected all the engines. They located several that were showing similar signs and pulled those engines (Well they didn’t do that for the F-35 because none of the engines are showing similar signs, but you get the drift.)
4. They cleared planes to fly again before fixing the “root cause” because they could control the symptoms. In this case, by inspecting to see if the engine is showing similar symptoms and then making more frequent engine inspections. (See any similarities yet?) And that was with passengers (lots of em) on board!
5. The production line eventually made changes so the problem should not recur.
6. What pray tell, is different here! Beyond your imagination that is?

The civilian equivilent to this is the FAA Emergency Airworthiness Directive. You might want to take a look at the FAAs Emergency Airworthiness Directives (There were 48 in the last 60 days). In almost every case, a dangerous condition is identified, an inspection is made, and if your aircraft doesn’t have the problem, you keep flying it. One was even for RR Engines that require an immediate inspection, and if nothing is found, you go back to flying your aircraft. That is what was done here. Symptom identified, mitigation determined, long term fix in development. This is risk management in the real world.

Just a note, your understanding of statistical analysis is woefully deficient. Lets review.
1. 1 engine in well over a hundred had a problem.
2. It was a low hours engine (this is pretty typical of a production problem on a really complex system, it either works or it eats itself in short order)
3. No other engines exhibit the same symptoms, including ones that have been run at full afterburner for an order of magnitude more than expected and ones that have exceeded 1000hrs of flight time..
4. Most probably, this is not a fleet issue. By which I mean, statistically, you probably have a better chance of winning the powerball and Mega Millions in the same week.

As to your conspiracy theories, there is no way to disprove it because it is virtually impossible to disprove a negative. It appears that due diligence was held, but I am sure that regardless of what they say, you would think it was a conspiracy. Probably the same way I am sure you will call me a LM Hack or whatever. Oh, and just to note, the SH control laws still has the potential to allow the aircraft to enter flight regimes that will kill you (hence the NATOPS restrictions, making pilots think just like in the old days), so no, they didn’t fix it.

Just a note, there was a F18 crash last year due to an engine failure caused by an oil leak on takeoff. Did they ground the force? Didn’t think so.

But if you really want to see a case of “Cheating”, I would point you to the F100 development, where real cheating was employed.

It’s been in R&D for 14 years, if it was a testbed no big deal, problem is it has burned through billions while being in R&D and low rate production = concurrency, which means every one of these that have rolled off the line and are rolling off the line will have to go back to LM for fixes.

14 years later and platform has not met one performance baseline or deadline, we still don’t know cost per unit, and no service has IOC with it.

And on the other side billions will be spent on life extensions for legacy platforms in order to keep them flying ‚due to F-35 platform not being operational, past their phase out date.

The F-35 first flew in 2006, the earlier X-35 was more a concept demonstrator, hence the “X” as opposed to “YF” designation.

Hasn’t met one performance baseline or deadline? According to whom? There are a dozen different flyaway costs for the aircraft depending on who you listen to but this is hardly unique to the F-35. As you said legacy platforms are being kept operational past when they were planned to be phased out, if the F-35 were to be cancelled those other aircraft wouldn’t get any younger or more capable.

I wouldn’t say F100 development was “cheating”. It was a very advanced engine for its time and there were a lot of challenges. Some specs were based on earlier aircraft which did not represent what pilots were doing with the far more agile F-15, so early models were seeing wear and tear far faster than expected.

The F-35 fighter is ugly and a piece of junk!

“hold people responsible”?.…and again we see that word “change” This is 2014! What world are you living in? With our present Commander and Chief…Any of those doing the “holding people responsible” will become the “hiding”. Nature has many examples of this thru the years where those doing the preying turn into being preyed upon . How many generals have been forced to retire in this administration? Really not trying to get political, but politics is the main factor at the level you’re referring to. After this is over, it would have been better for America if we had just figured out away to get around the financial spiral of the Raptor. It’s only $ Billions. That’s a blink for Obama! What happens after the 15’s, 16’s and 18’s become out dated and our only fighter the 35 gets grounded? Do we shut down our entire military?

Get used to it, because that’s what you’re going to get from now on if you don’t fix the way the military procures weapons.

If I were in charge, I’d cancel the dang thing now, regardless of the $billions that have been wasted on it. We can still and we should re-open the F-22 production line. The F-22 has a dual engine base and could be adapted to serve the needs of any of the other needs that the Navy and Marines require.

It seems to me that the F-35 is just a new disaster waiting to happen once more. If it really doesn’t work well now because of the compromises made to accommodate all 3 services, then there’s no realistic chance that it will serve us for the 20–40 years that are its projected service life.

Yes, I know that this would mean delays of at least 5–10 years until the F-22 adaptions are ready to fly, but better that we have something that really works than an aircraft that will do nothing well and with many service issues.


The F-22 won’t take off and land from a carrier. It won’t take off and land vertically. You can’t just shove a square peg in a round hole and pretend it fits. Hell, the F-22 is certainly not the airplane everyone thinks it is just because it has better press releases, and if you think the next program after JSF is going to be better, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

No, it was cheating. P&W with the full backing of the USAF stopped endurance tests to change parts that were failing so the engine would pass in direct violation of the testing procedures. It was the most advanced engine at the time, and a huge challenge, but the USAF really, really wanted the F-15 and was willing to break the rules to get it. That is cheating, unlike say the current situation where they are using risk mitigation to keep the fleet safe while they figure out what to do to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen again.

One of the reasons the SH doesn’t perform as well as the Hornet in many flight regimes.

On the time beeing, just an aircraft to fly like a liner ?

tldr: no alternative to failure

The Boeing 747, when first used, had engine issues and it was a private commercial project. This is what happens when you push the technological envelope.

The 787 is undergoing similar developmental hiccups.


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