UPDATED: Air Force 33rd Fighter Wing Continues Safety Pause For F-35As.
WASHINGTON: The fire that struck an Air Force F-35A as it took of from Eglin Air Force Base should have limited operational effect on the Joint Strike Fighter program if initial conclusions by program officials are accurate..
The Air Force has paused its aircrafts’ flights. UPDATE The 33rd Fighter Wing, responsible for F-35 training at Eglin Air Force Base, said Wednesday morning that its “commander has decided to continue the temporarily (sic) suspension of F-35A flights at Eglin in the interest of safety as we continue to investigate the cause of the mishap.” First Lt. Hope Cronin said in an email to reporters that “We have no further information regarding the nature or extent of the damage” yet. UPDATE ENDS
The Navy did not. The Marines also “paused” and are expected to get back into the air tomorrow.
“USMC leadership elected to exercise one day of operational pause at F-35B site locations; we expect F-35B flight ops to resume tomorrow,” a program official said. Air Force leadership is evaluating the issue. Air Combat Command will decide for the production aircraft; Air Education Training Command will decide for training aircraft. We’ve pinged ACC and will update when we hear from them.
The incident is almost certain to be declared a Class A mishap as any damage to the stealth coating is sure to be larger than $2 million. The act of putting out the fire will almost certainly have damaged the plane’s stealthy skin. The program does not yet have an initial damage assessment.
In the meantime, authorities are choosing subject matter experts who will make up the Safety Investigation (SIB) and Accident Investigation boards (AIB) to identify the accident’s causes and any measures need to protect the fleet and its pilots.
The SIB should convene “within days” and is expected to produce an assessment within 30 days.The AIB, said a program official, will begin “its investigation as soon as it can do so without interfering in the SIB investigation.” It should be done in 60 to 90 days. Unless there are classified or personnel issues most of the reports should be released.
“Initial indications from the field suggest that this is an isolated incident,” the program official said.