The first ever crash of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has led to a world-wide grounding for the type to allow for unscheduled inspections.
An F-35B crashed near MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, on September 28. The pilot ejected safely. The grounding appears to be as a result of initial investigations into the Beaufort crash.
The grounding, which was ordered by the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) on October 10, is to allow for inspections of a specific fuel line related to the aircraft’s Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan. The grounding order was initially announced for all US military examples, but soon expanded to all operators.
Some aircraft had already returned to the air by October 11.
The grounding order came as the UK military and Lockheed Martin continued its First of Class Flight Trials for the F-35B aboard the new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08). The UK Ministry of Defence said in a statement: ‘We have paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry.’ It added that the QE flight trials ‘continue and the programme remains on schedule.’