F-35 flight suspension at Luke AFB ends; cause of hypoxia not found

By Perry Vandell
June 19, 2017

F-35s at Luke Air Force Base will scream across the sky again on Wednesday.

Officials at the Glendale base announced Monday that they will lift the flight suspension that grounded its 55 F-35s since June 9 after five pilots complained of hypoxia-like symptoms over a five-week span. Symptoms ranged from dizziness to tingling in their extremities.

The 11-day suspension was initially expected to last one day, but Luke Commander Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard extended it to give investigators more time.

Investigators have not found the specific cause of the problems, but they have narrowed down the possible causes.


Another pilot in Arizona experienced lightheadedness and breathing difficulties this week, Arizona Central reported Thursday.

July 14, 2017

Another pilot in Arizona experienced lightheadedness and breathing difficulties this week, Arizona Central reported Thursday.

The event took place on Monday, a spokesman told AZ Central, which is owned by USA Today. Last month, several squadrons of F-35 jets at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, were grounded following multiple episodes of hypoxia in the month of May. The oxygen flow regulators weren’t fixed, investigators didn’t know why they had malfunctioned, but the military decided to continue flying the jets anyway while safety risks loomed.

Experts were tapped to help figure out what was going on but the service has next to no idea why hypoxia is still occurring among pilots in the $1.5 trillion jet program. “No specific root cause for the physiological episodes was identified during recent visits from experts and engineers from the Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin, the Air Force Research Laboratory,” the US Air Force 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office said in June.


Navy presents new F-35 helmet display videos and flight test dangers

By Tyler Rogoway
July 10, 2017

Seminar by F-35 testers details tense nighttime carrier vertical landing that almost went wrong and the breaking off of a F-35B’s refueling probe tip during tanker trials.

A video from Flight Test Safety Committee’s conference early last May offers a fascinating insight into the F-35 test program. A talk put on by NAVAIR and presented by the F-35 Government Flight Test Director, Lt. Col. D. Tom Fields, goes into detail about a couple of challenges the program has faced over the last 12 months, and it’s is presented in a totally frank and unafraid manner. The open tone of the address is downright refreshing considering the usual one-sided spin we get from the F-35 Program Office and its corporate partners.


Force Spokesman: F-35A Hypoxia Incidents Date To 2011

By Oriana Pawlyk
June 15, 2017

More than a dozen Air Force F-35 pilots experienced oxygen deprivation symptoms between 2011 and this year, the service disclosed Thursday as it investigates a steady uptick of hypoxia-related incidents at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

It marked the first time many of the cases had been disclosed publicly.

In a statement Thursday, Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said that since April 2, 2011, there “have been 15 reported F-35A in-flight and ground physiological events.”

“Five of those events were reported by Luke Air Force Base pilots between May 2 and June 8th, 2017,” Graff said in an email. “In all cases, pilots were able to safely recover the aircraft via established procedures.”


F-35A engine fire at US Air Force base sparked by strong tailwinds

By Valerie Insinna
July 12, 2017

U.S. Air Force investigators have found that last September’s F-35A mishap at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, was indeed an uncontained engine fire — albeit one started because of tailwinds present during engine start, not deficiencies with the aircraft’s Pratt and Whitney F135 engine.

According to a U.S. Air Force accident investigation board, or AIB, report signed May 9 by the board’s president and obtained by Defense News, the engine fire started after tailwinds forced hot air into the inlet of the jet’s integrated power pack. A chain of factors, such as insufficient torque and slow engine rotation speed, caused the F-35 to continuously supply fuel to its engine at an increased rate.

“During this mishap, however, the fire became uncontained due to the increased amount of fuel added while the engine rotation speed was slowing,” the report stated. “Once the uncontained fire started coming out of the aircraft exhaust, the tailwind carried it rapidly along the exterior surfaces of the jet.”

The pilot escaped from the aircraft but sustained burns to his head, neck and face.

The service is still evaluating how much it will cost to repair the F-35A involved in the mishap, which was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and involved in a training flight at Mountain Home when the fire occurred. However, damage to the plane is estimated to amount to at least $17 million.

F-35s Grounded at Luke AFB After Pilots Report Hypoxia-Like Symptoms

By Oriana Pawlyk
June 9, 2017

The Air Force has grounded all F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, after pilots complained of hypoxia-related issues, officials said Friday.

“The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, canceled local flying operations today for F-35A Lightning II aircraft due to a series of five incidents in which pilots have experienced hypoxia-like symptoms,” Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said in an email.

A total of 48 aircraft and 49 pilots are affected by the temporary stand-down, according to Maj. Rebecca Heyse, a spokeswoman for the base.

“Flying operations are planned to resume Monday, June 12,” she said in an email.

The incident is “limited to Luke” at this time, meaning other bases aren’t affected by the order, Graff said.

Since May 2, five F-35A pilots have experienced “physiological incidents while flying,” according to the statement from Heyse. In each case, the aircraft’s backup oxygen system kicked in and the pilot followed the correct procedures to land safely, it stated.


F-35 flights halted at Ariz. base over pilot health concerns

By Perry Vandell
June 10, 2017

The Air Force on Friday stopped flying F-35 fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale after a series of incidents in which pilots reported symptoms of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.

Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said the temporary halt followed five separate in-flight incidents since May 2. Graff said in each case, the airplane’s backup oxygen system worked as designed and the pilot was able to land the plane safely.

“The Air Force takes these physiological incidents seriously, and our focus is on the safety and well-being of our pilots,” said Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke. “We are taking the necessary steps to find the root cause of these incidents.”

Maj. Rebecca Heyse, a chief public affairs officer for Luke, said each of the five pilots’ symptoms were slightly different, from dizziness and disorientation to tingling in their extremities.


F-35 grounded indefinitely at Luke Air Force Base over hypoxia reports

By Perry Vandell
June 12, 2017

Luke Air Force Base officials announced Monday that flight operations will be indefinitely suspended as its team of engineers and maintenance specialists continue to investigate the rash of hypoxia-like symptoms some pilots reported.

The high-priced jets were grounded Friday at the Glendale base after five separate in-flight incidents since May 2 in which pilots reported symptoms from dizziness and disorientation to tingling in their extremities.

Luke spokeswoman Maj. Rebecca Heyse said there aren’t any leads yet, but new information has streamed in as an investigative “action team” worked over the weekend.


Achieving Full Combat Capability with the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is at Substantial Risk

By Michael Gilmore
August 9, 2016

Achieving Full Combat Capability with the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is at Substantial Risk

While the Air Force recently declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with “basic”
Block 3i capabilities, most of the limitations and deficiencies for the F-35A with Block 3i
discussed in my FY15 Annual Report and Congressional testimonies remain and will adversely
affect mission effectiveness and suitability. In fact, the program is actually not on a path toward
success, but instead on a path toward failing to deliver the full Block 3F capabilities for which
the Department is paying almost $400 billion by the scheduled end of System Development and
Demonstration (SDD) in 2018. If Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) were
conducted today on the aircraft in the Block 3i configuration – with which the Air Force recently
declared IOC -the system would likely be evaluated as not effective and not suitable across the
required mission areas and against currently fielded threats. If used in combat, the F-35 in the
Block 3i configuration, which is equivalent in capabilities to Block 2B, will need support to
locate and avoid modem threats, acquire targets, and engage formations of enemy fighter aircraft
due to outstanding performance deficiencies and limited weapons carriage available (i.e., two
bombs and two air-to-air missiles).


Mr President, Cancel the F-35

By Mike Fredenburg
January 6, 2017

Our incoming president’s willingness to boldly challenge the status quo is arguably the main reason he was elected. And no defense project is more representative of a disastrous status quo than the 20-year-old Joint Strike Fighter program — the F-35. The F-35 program showcases all that is wrong about our military’s vendor-dominated, crony-capitalist procurement system. Unless dealt with decisively, its massive cost and its lack of capability will have a dramatically negative impact on our military’s effectiveness for decades to come. Therefore, President-elect Trump’s willingness to publicly call out this $1.5 trillion program is good news.


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