Failure of F-35 test grounds JSF Force

All flight and ground operations for the Joint Strike Fighter force have been suspended after the secondary power system of F-35A AF-4, a USAF-variant test aircraft, failed on Tuesday morning at Edwards AFB, Calif.

The failure occurred during a ground maintenance engine run. In a statement, the JSF Program Office states that “the engine was immediately shut down and the jet was secured. No injuries to the pilot or ground crew occurred.”

Flight suspensions and limitations are not unusual during aircraft test programs. However, it is less common for ground operations (such as engine runs) to be halted.

The JPO did not specify whether the aircraft or systems were damaged in the incident, but says that the operations halt “is the prudent action . . . until the F-35 engineering, technical and system safety teams fully understand the cause of the incident.”

The failure occurred in the integrated power pack (IPP), an F-35-unique system produced by Honeywell that combines the functions of engine starter, emergency and auxiliary power unit, environmental control system and back-up generator. In a short F-35 grounding in March, the IPP acted as designed after both engine-mounted generators failed.

F-35 flight-testing has been running ahead of the revised schedule that was adopted as part of the restructuring and stretch-out announced in January. At the Paris air show, USAF Maj. Gen C.D. Moore, deputy program office director, said that the flight-test success would provide the program with margin, but not allow the schedule to be brought forward.

The March grounding lasted only five days for seven aircraft then flying, after the problem was isolated to a redesigned generator on later aircraft. Restrictions on the others were lifted before the end of the month after maintenance procedures were changed. A software issue caused an earlier full-fleet grounding in October 2010.

 

-aviationweek.com

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