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DoD Grounds Entire F-35 Fleet; Plane Might Not Make UK Debut

Jul. 3, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By MARCUS WEISGERBER   |   Comments
SINGAPORE-AVIATION-ASIA-AIR SHOW
The F-35 on display at the Singapore Airshow in February. The Pentagon has grounded the entire fleet of F-35s, raising doubts that the aircraft will be able to fly at the Farnborough International Airshow this month. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — The European debut of the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter is now in question after the Pentagon grounded the entire fleet late Thursday based on the initial findings of an investigation into a fire that broke out on one of the jets last month.

The US Defense Department says it is still making preparations to send the jet to the Farnborough International Airshow and Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK, but would not make a final decision until “early next week.”

The Pentagon says it is still investigating the cause of the June 23 fire the broke out in the rear of an Air Force F-35 during takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

DoD temporarily grounded the F-35 fleet and ordered inspections of all jets before returning the aircraft to flight testing.

“The root cause of the incident remains under investigation,” DoD said in emailed statement late Thursday.

“Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data,” the statement reads. “Defense Department leadership supports this prudent approach.”

“We are working closely with the Air Force Safety Investigation Board to determine root cause and to inspect all engines in the fleet,” Pratt & Whitney spokesman Matthew Bates said in a company statement. “Safety is our top priority. Since the incident is the subject of an investigation it is inappropriate to comment further.”

A spokesman for Lockheed was not immediately available for comment. ■

Email: mweisgerber@defensenews.com.

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