The Pentagon has announced a partial lifting of flight restrictions on the F-35 Lightning II fleet after engine inspections revealed no systemic issues with the aircraft’s P&W F135 engine.
The fleet was grounded following a June 23 engine fire, but flight restrictions including Mach 0.9 speed and -1/+3g limits have been imposed, and engines must be inspected every three flight hours by borescope until the root cause of the engine mishap has been identified. Initial investigations point to a low pressure stage blade rubbing on the engine’s casing as the cause of the fire.
The limited flight envelope and inspection regime means any chance of the planned deployment of four F-35Bs to the UK for the Farnborough Airshow is now gone.
“I can confirm that the Department of Defense – in concert with our partners in the UK – has decided not to send Marine Corps and UK F-35B aircraft across the Atlantic to participate in the Farnborough air show,” Pentagon Press Secretary RAdm John Kirby said in a July 15 statement. “This decision was reached after consultation with operational commanders and air worthiness authorities, despite the decision by air worthiness authorities to clear the aircraft to return to flight.”
“When we consider deploying aircraft operationally we look at many factors, to include operational risk, weather and ground time. All these factors were weighted appropriately in making this difficult decision,” he added. “While we are disappointed, we remain fully committed to the program and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and partners.”