Transatlantic ferry flights of four Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning IIs, due to make their international debut in the UK, were delayed this week by the engine fire that occurred June 23 at Eglin AFB. As a result, tentative plans to fly one or more of them over the naming ceremony for the UK’s new aircraft carrier were cancelled. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will formally christen the big ship named after her, at Rosyth dockyard in Scotland on July 4. It is due to commence sea trials in 2017.
Despite the accident at Eglin, and subsequent grounding of all aircraft based there, the U.S. Marine Corps flew four F-35Bs from their base at Yuma to NAS Patuxent River, Md., last week. British F-35B BK-03 was scheduled to join them, before a quartet of the stealth jets left for the UK. As of writing, BK-03 was still at Eglin, and the transatlantic ferry was six days late. “The Marine Corps is still planning for its deployment to the UK,” a spokesman told AINon July 3. But later that day, all F-35s were grounded pending engine inspections. “Return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data,” the Pentagon said.
At least two pilots on the deployment—one British, one American—were scheduled to validate their airshow routine at RAF Fairford, home of the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) on July 7 and 8. The aircraft were not due to fly again until Friday, July 11, when British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is due to visit RIAT and sign the contract for 14 more UK F-35Bs. The F-35s will not be doing vertical takeoffs or landings during the displays.
Another spokesman for the F-35 program office this week confirmed to AIN that the stealth jet will not be appearing in the flying display at Farnborough on two of the trade days there—Wednesday and Thursday, July 16 and 17. Contrary to the reason we noted earlier, those days have been allocated for aircraft maintenance, he said.
Ahead of the F-35’s anticipated appearance in the UK, AINtv has produced a video previewing the debut using film provided by Lockheed Martin.