Home » Aviation » Fire Breaks Out on F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Pilot Safe

Fire Breaks Out on F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Pilot Safe

 F-35A Lightning II while another Air Force joint strike fighter waits to be refueled at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. US Air Force Photo

F-35A Lightning II while another Air Force joint strike fighter waits to be refueled at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. US Air Force Photo

This post was updated to include a statement from Lockheed Martin.

A Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was severely damaged — possibly destroyed — in a Monday morning fire on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., USNI News learned.

No injuries were reported and officials have begun an investigation into the incident, defense officials told USNI News on Monday.

“The aircraft was preparing to conduct a continuation training mission at the time of the incident, but aborted during takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base due to a fire in the back end of the aircraft,” according to a Monday statement provided to USNI News from the Air Force.
“Emergency responders extinguished the fire with foam.”

The aircraft was a F-35A — the Air Force variant of the fighter — assigned to the 33rd “Nomads” Fighter Wing. The wing is schoolhouse for all versions of the JSF and trains sailors, airmen and Marines.

“We have a robust and extensive training program in which every pilot and aircraft crew member is trained in order to respond quickly and correctly in the event emergencies occur,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Haas, the 33rd Wing vice commander in the statement.
“In this case, the pilot followed the appropriate procedures which allowed for the safe abort of the mission, engine shutdown, and egress.”

The base had trained for a F-35 ground fire as recently as mid-May, according to a separate release from Eglin.

“We are aware of the event at Eglin AFB today involving an F-35A aircraft. The aircraft is in the very capable hands of the 33rd Fighter Wing,” a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman said in a statement to USNI News.
“Lockheed Martin informed the wing that we are available for assistance upon request.”

This is the first incident this severe for the JSF during the life of the tri-service program.

There are currently 104 Joint Strike Fighters in the U.S. inventory — split between U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps variants, according to information from Lockheed.

View Eglin Air Force Base in a larger map

Eglin — located on the Florida panhandle — is the home the training centers for pilots and maintainers for all three U.S. variants of the JSF as well as international vairants.

The 33rd was designated as the F-35 schoolhouse in 2009 and received its first F-35 in 2011. The wing is set to receive an estimated 59 aircraft by 2018.

The wing is part of the larger F-35 Integrated Training Center which plans to have annual output of 100 pilots and 2,100 by 2018.

The JSF fleet was grounded earlier this month after a Marine variant of the aircraft suffered an engine oil leak in flight.

  • Godblessourchildren

    It is time to rid ourselves of this boondoggle. It is over priced, very expensive and unreliable and has suffered a spate of mechanical problems. The cost overruns are staggering and the government can no longer afford to waste tax payers money on toys that do not work.

    • Ctrot

      Yes because no other aircraft in history has caught fire.

    • PlayLoud

      Do you have any idea how much it would cost to design and build a new fighter? A new plane would also have teething problems. There is no way they are canceling the F-35 at this point.

  • RunningBear

    Thankfully the pilot was unharmed. Now that the a/c fire was extinguished, we will see the decision matrix determine the class of the mishap. Class A mishaps, which involve at least $2 million of damage, a permanent total
    disability or a fatality. If the repair is effected, then the verification of the time and cost estimates as prepared by the engineering and operation organizations will be examined.
    Usually, fires like this are initiated by either a loose fuel system fittings (maintenance) or with this aircraft, infant mortality design failure of a component or system, or “other”.

    • CharleyA

      One scenario developed from the limited info available certainly points to a fuel system failure, or possibly a fueldraulic system failure. Fuel pressure and flow would increase with the pcl advanced from idle for t/o. Hard to tell if it resulted from an improper mx action, or a faulty line or fitting like the one discovered a while ago…

      • Pat

        Not fueldraulic because this is a F-35A variant. Not the “B.”

        • CharleyA

          The fueldraulic system actuates/powers the exhaust nozzle in the -A. DOT&E noted in its 2012 report that a tests performed on an F-35A test article revealed a vulnerability:

          “Another test in this series, LF-19D-16, identified the
          vulnerability associated with fuel fires from fueldraulic system leaks. The fueldraulic system is a fuel-based hydraulic system used to control the engine exhaust nozzle. It introduces a significant amount of fuel plumbing to the aft end of the engine and, consequently, an increased potential for fire.

          – This test confirmed the increase in vulnerability. The
          original aircraft design included flow fuses, also known
          as excess flow check valves, to cutoff fuel flow when a
          leak is sensed due to downstream fuel line damage or
          failure. As a result of the weight-reduction initiative,
          the JESB directed removal of fueldraulic fuses from
          the production design in 2008 to provide weight saving
          of 9 pounds. Fuses, however, were still part of the
          non-weight-optimized F-35A test article used in this test.

          – While a ballistic test with fragment threats demonstrated
          that the fueldraulic system poses a fire-related
          vulnerability to the F-35, the leak rates generating the fire
          were insufficient to trigger the fuses. Since the fuses did
          not shut off the flow, the result was a sustained fuel-based

          – The Program Office is accepting the increased
          vulnerability associated with the fueldraulic system and is
          currently not considering reinstating the fueldraulic fuses
          in the production aircraft configuration.

          A Computation of Vulnerable Area Tool analysis shows that
          the removal of the PAO coolant and fueldraulic systems
          results in a 25 percent increase in aircraft vulnerability.”

  • Buddy Holly

    Big deal, our EC-130s catch fire all the time. We had so many IFEs in Afghanistan I stopped keeping track. 60% of the time it works every time.

  • Kent

    From 1968-1970 I served in a C-130 squadron. One of my fellow airmen was with a group who actually went to Lockheed-Martin Georgia when a modification was supposed to have been done to our planes. He told me that once the part was installed and the inspector checked it off, someone else down the line would remove it. Stunts like that even made a 60 Minutes story. So why is our military still using that company when there are plenty of competent competitors?

  • RJ Chesnut Jr.

    The F-22 is FAR superior to the F-35. Time to kill this moneypit, it’s worse
    than the FB-111 as an “All purpose warplane”. If the USMC wants VTOL,
    re-vamp the AV-8bs,

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  • Curtis Conway

    Actually we will have to hold our breath until GE’s ADVENT F-35 replacement/upgrade engine comes out with its better specific fuel consumption, more power, and wider diversity of application based upon the aircraft’s activities (takeoff, climb, or super-cruise). had the competition continued the GE F136 would have beat the PW F135 hands down. The Marines in the F-35B need that extra performance TODAY!