Air Force grounds F-35 squadron after oxygen deprivation issues
The Air Force has “temporarily” grounded a squadron of F-35s fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona after five pilots reported symptoms consistent with oxygen deprivation, the service said Friday.
The 56th Fighter Wing cancelled local flying operations for its F-35A Lightning II fighters after five incidents since May 2 where pilots experienced symptoms similar to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.
In every incident the F-35’s back-up oxygen system kicked in and pilots were able to land the plane safely, the Air Force said.
“In order to synchronize operations and maintenance efforts toward safe flying operations, we have cancelled local F-35A flying,” Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, commander of the 56th, said in the Air Force statement.
“The Air Force takes these physiological incidents seriously, and our focus is on the safety and well-being of our pilots. We are taking the necessary steps to find the root cause of these incidents.”
The service added that the F-35 joint program office has created a team of government and industry “engineers, maintainers and aeromedical physiologists” to study and figure out what went wrong with the aircraft.
The Lockheed-Martin-made F-35A – the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons acquisition program to date – is set to head to the Paris Air Show later this month to conduct a flight demonstration with jets from Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
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