Some late night news here on Intercepts, as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been cleared to resume flight operations, six days after the entire fleet was grounded due to a crack discovered in an engine.
The joint statement from the Joint Program Office and contractor Pratt & Whitney:
Following engineering analysis of the turbine blade which developed a crack, F-35 flight operations have been cleared to resume.
This decision concludes a cautionary flight suspension that began on Feb. 21 after a 0.6 inch crack was found on a 3rd stage turbine blade of a test aircraft at the Edwards Air Force Base F-35 Integrated Test Facility during a routine inspection. Comprehensive tests on the blade were conducted at the Pratt & Whitney facility in Middletown, Connecticut. The engine in question is part of the F-35 test aircraft fleet, and had been operated at extreme
parameters in its mission to expand the F-35 flight envelope. Prolonged exposure to high levels of heat and other operational stressors on this specific engine were determined to be the cause of the crack.
No additional cracks or signs of similar engine stress were found during inspections of the remaining F135 inventory.
No engine redesign is required as a result of this event. Within the current DoD inventory, 17 F-35s are employed in test and development at Patuxent River Naval Air Station and Edwards Air Force Base; the remaining aircraft are assigned to Eglin Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, and comprise the initial F-35 training fleet.
Obviously this is good news for a program that has struggled out of the gate in 2013, and capped off a day that saw a new deal awarded to contractor Lockheed Martin for a future purchase of the fifth generation fighter.
Click on the “more” link for some more news about the program. More