Flight operations of the F-35A Lightning II conducted by the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., were suspended after one of the fighters caught fire on June 23 as it prepared to take off on a training mission. The U.S. military is investigating the incident.
The pilot of the Joint Strike Fighter conventional takeoff and landing variant aborted the takeoff because of “a fire in the back end of the aircraft,” according to a statement the F-35 Joint Program Office provided. The pilot exited the aircraft with no reported injuries. Emergency responders extinguished the fire with foam.
The 33rd Fighter Wing trains Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots and maintainers on the three variants of the Lockheed Martin F-35.
“We have a robust and extensive training program in which every pilot and aircraft crew member is trained to respond quickly and correctly in the event emergencies occur,” stated Navy Capt. Paul Haas, 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander. “In this case, the pilot followed the appropriate procedures, which allowed for the safe abort of the mission, engine shutdown and egress. We take all ground emergencies seriously.”
The grounding will not affect the imminent departure of four F-35Bs to the UK, where they will appear at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and the Farnborough Air Show. The aircraft are set to fly direct from NAS Patuxent River, Md., to RAF Fairford, UK on June 30, with the aid of KC-10 refueling tankers.