Most F-35s Return to Flight Operations After Fuel Tube Problem (excerpt)
(Source: Defense News; posted Oct 15, 2018)
By Valerie Insinna
WASHINGTON --- After a fuel tube problem sidelined all operational F-35 aircraft last week, more than 80 percent of jets have been cleared to return to flight, the F-35 joint program office stated Monday.

In an Oct. 15 statement, the JPO confirmed that the U.S. services and international partners have completed inspections of their F-35 inventories for faulty fuel tubes. The aircraft that are not impacted by the bad tubes — which are a component in Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine — are back in flying status.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office continues to work closely with the military services to prioritize fuel tube replacements using the current spares inventory,” the JPO said. “Pratt & Whitney is rapidly procuring more parts to minimize the overall repair timeline for the remaining jets. Current inventory will restore about half of the impacted jets to flight operations, and the remaining aircraft are expected to be cleared for flight over the coming weeks.”

Last week, all U.S. and international F-35s were momentarily grounded to allow for an enterprise-wide fuel tube inspection. The review began as a result of an investigation into a Sept. 28 Marine Corps’ F-35B crash near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina — the first F-35 crash in the jet’s history.

It is still unclear exactly how the defective fuel tubes impact the jet’s performance or how serious a safety threat they pose during flight operations. Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the JPO, declined to discuss the specific problems that led the program office to call for a fleetwide inspection, saying that details could not be released until the Marine Corps completes its accident investigation. (end of excerpt)


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