Eglin F-35A Makes First Flight Since Arriving, Leaks Fuel

Doh! A fuel leak!?

From sister site DoDBuzz:

The Air Force’s F-35s at Eglin AFB were cleared to fly just as the brass said they’d be at the winter AFA meeting, but when it actually happened there was a little hitch.

The debut flight was supposed to last 90 minutes, but the pilot turned back after only 15 when the aircraft showed what appeared to be a fuel leak. According to the Air Force’s statement, it was a successful failure:

Click through the jump to read the Air Force’s statement, the last line pretty much says all you need to know about the fate of the F-35 — in the U.S., anyway. “We can’t cancel the program now . . . We have to make it work.”

“Our first sortie is truly a milestone for the program,” said Col. Andrew Toth, 33rd Fighter Wing commander. “Unfortunately things happen. We didn’t want it to happen today but we were prepared. Our pilot did the exact right thing in returning the jet back to Eglin. Although there were issues we are doing whatever we can to move the program forward safely and effectively.”

Pilots and maintainers will meet later today to discuss the potential fuel leak finding that caused the precautionary end of the sortie at 15 minutes versus the 90 minutes scheduled to be airborne to complete the operational check flight.

“We met both objectives today; get the aircraft airborne and start local area operations,” said Lt. Col. Eric Smith, the Air Force’s first F-35 pilot who tested the aircraft at Edwards AFB, Calif. “Our team did the most conservative thing by deciding to bring the plane back. We trained for this many times in the simulator for this exact reason.”

The crowd on the flight line present for take-off kept the cheers for their integrated team’s first aircraft launch and feel the day was still a success.

“It’s a wonderful experience to know I made history launching the first F-35,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Houser, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, who saluted Smith in the cockpit before the jet taxied down the ramp.

Maintainers have been preparing for today’s launch with engine runs and taxi operations for approximately eight months since the aircraft began arriving here last summer. Utilizing virtual trainers, developing pilot curriculum and hosting small group tryouts has been the focus of personnel to ready themselves for flight operations to come.

“This is our execution year,” said Toth, who is proud of his team for laying the foundation to get the nation’s training program ready to go. “The cohesion we developed between the services make this not just about the Air Force, but about the wing’s program to launch the F-35A as a baseline for the JSF program’s future. It’s taken the entire team, all services and contractors to build this up. Had the partnership not been there, I don’t think we’d be here today.”

Since 2009, Air Force, Navy and Marines sent their best aviators and aircraft mechanics to develop the next generation warriors of the joint strike fighter program here.

“I can’t wait until we fly more and show our stuff to the world,” said Senior Airman Arthur Verchot, 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief launch assistant.

More pilot students will flow into the program at the right time so the wing has the correct number of people in each phase of the program. With people as the main training product, the 33rd FW focuses on preparing for an anticipated 2,200 students a year and 900 “on campus” at any given time at full capacity.

It was, at very least, forward progress, although the truncated flight perfectly encapsulated the story of the F-35 program so far. And it also brought a reminder that even with this milestone, the way ahead still isn’t very clear.

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Washington’s Rep. Adam Smith, told reporters last week “we do not yet have a firm idea of when the planes are going to be ready,” and how “concerned” he was about that. But he wound up with the same old refrain: There’s nothing for it. We’re too far along.

“We can’t cancel the program now,” he said. “We have to make it work.”

  • blight_

    As Tim Gunn would say, with only two hours left before judgement day:

    “Make it work!”

  • Sgt._Buffy

    Everybody stay calm, we got this one.

  • Noha307

    Just when you though it couldn’t get any worse …this happens. I thought this thing was supposed to be a top’a-the-line fighter, not a rust bucket. We poured BILLIONS into the plane and we can’t even make it fly right, much less fight.

    • Isaac

      nothings perfect we are talking about very adavnce systems, and the aircraft comes with a 15 year wanantee soo were really not paying for that ;).

  • Oh boy

    “We can’t cancel the program now,” he said. “We have to make it work.”

    Does that mean they weren’t expecting it to work?

  • Chops

    The farther they go with this program the more LM screws up and overcharges–how can you run a business like that?Maybe their customers will realise how incopetent LM is and cancel their orders.

  • LtKitty

    Despite the bad news, I’d have to say that’s a pretty awesome picture. Just slap some stealthy duct tape on the bird and move along.

    • passingby

      Good one.

      50 million dollars per foot for the stealthy duct tape … sounds about right? (R & D included, final price subject to change without notice.)

      • Chops

        Which means it’s already up to 100mil per LM pricing.

  • Black Owl

    No program should ever be made so that it can’t be cancelled. This failure of an aircraft is not worth its price and it’s still possible that it could go through the Death Spiral process and end up dead. It’s not the only option we have since the Super Hornet International Road Map can perform just as good as the F-35 with a slight reduction in stealth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbmvFABNRDA

    On top of that the Super Hornets are extremely cheap to make and is in too many ways better than the F-35. It’s also cheaper to operate, maintain, is far more reliable, and is ready right now at time when our economy is not at its best: http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/09/h

    Fav quote: “You don’t want to pick up Stephen’s math and run with it, because if you do, you’ll realize the Navy could replace every Hornet in inventory with a Block II, add an extra squadron of Block IIs to all 11 carrier air wings, add an 11th Carrier Air Wing, and still save money by sticking with Super Hornets and choosing not to buy the Joint Strike Fighter.”

    I think it’s possible to get the F-35A to work and we should focus on the A-model, but the B and C should be cancelled.

  • Black Owl

    No program should ever be made so that it can’t be cancelled. This failure of an aircraft is not worth its price and it’s still possible that it could go through the Death Spiral process and end up dead. It’s not the only option we have since the Super Hornet International Road Map can perform just as good as the F-35 with a slight reduction in stealth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbmvFABNRDA

    On top of that the Super Hornets are extremely cheap to make and is in too many ways better than the F-35. It’s also cheaper to operate, maintain, is far more reliable, and is ready right now at time when our economy is not at its best: http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/09/h

    Fav quote: “You don’t want to pick up Stephen’s math and run with it, because if you do, you’ll realize the Navy could replace every Hornet in inventory with a Block II, add an extra squadron of Block IIs to all 11 carrier air wings, add an 11th Carrier Air Wing, and still save money by sticking with Super Hornets and choosing not to buy the Joint Strike Fighter.”

    I think it’s possible to get the F-35A to work and we should focus on the A-model, but the B and C should be cancelled.

  • Black Owl

    No program should ever be made so that it can’t be cancelled. This failure of an aircraft is not worth its price and it’s still possible that it could go through the Death Spiral process and end up dead. It’s not the only option we have since the Super Hornet International Road Map can perform just as good as the F-35 with a slight reduction in stealth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbmvFABNRDA

    On top of that the Super Hornets are extremely cheap to make and are in too many ways better than the F-35. It’s also cheaper to operate, maintain, is far more reliable, and is ready right now at time when our economy is not at its best: http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/09/h

    Fav quote: “You don’t want to pick up Stephen’s math and run with it, because if you do, you’ll realize the Navy could replace every Hornet in inventory with a Block II, add an extra squadron of Block IIs to all 11 carrier air wings, add an 11th Carrier Air Wing, and still save money by sticking with Super Hornets and choosing not to buy the Joint Strike Fighter.”

    I think it’s possible to get the F-35A to work and we should focus on the A-model, but the B and C should be cancelled.

  • Black Owl

    That’s it. The administrator is censoring my post again. I am done with this website and I am going to put all my arguments into a finely written paper, which I will then publish in revenge. This website is an insult to free thinking minds if they won’t let me post the hard facts about the F-35 program and I’m also going to mention this website in my paper as such. So long…

  • Black Owl

    No program should ever be made so that it can’t be cancelled. This failure of an aircraft is not worth its price and it’s still possible that it could go through the Death Spiral process and end up dead. It’s not the only option we have since the Super Hornet International Road Map can perform just as good as the F-35 with a slight reduction in stealth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbmvFABNRDA

    On top of that the Super Hornets are extremely cheap to make and are in too many ways better than the F-35. It’s also cheaper to operate, maintain, is far more reliable, and is ready right now at time when our economy is not at its best: http://www.informationdissemination.net/2010/09/h

    Fav quote: “You don’t want to pick up Stephen’s math and run with it, because if you do, you’ll realize the Navy could replace every Hornet in inventory with a Block II, add an extra squadron of Block IIs to all 11 carrier air wings, add an 11th Carrier Air Wing, and still save money by sticking with Super Hornets and choosing not to buy the Joint Strike Fighter.”

    I think it’s possible to get the F-35A to work and we should focus on the A-model, but the B and C should be cancelled.

  • Morty

    DAMN!!!!

  • Black Owl

    Being censored again… I’m done with this site.

  • Morty

    Ive been for the f-35 project from the start this is disappointing.

  • After everything this project has been through so far, we shouldn’t be too quick to predict doom at every suspected fault.

  • Black Owl

    I’m done with this website. The Admin is censoring me again and I’ve had it. I’m going to put my arguments into a well organized paper and publish it in revenge. This website is an insult to free thinking and I’ll mention it as such.

  • Jazz ism

    At least it’ll look good in the shortened flight sequences of top gun 2 with the leaks and all.

    • Nadnerbus

      Just take the original topgun scenes, and splice in an aerial refueling every ten minutes. “Maverick’s supersonic. Maverick’s tanking up. Roger engage. Returning to the tanker. Heading back to the ship. Getting some gas first…”

  • Jazz ism

    Oh no will this interfere with Top Gun 2? I hope not!

  • Vpanoptes

    Ghost of Goose – “This is not good, Mav”.

  • Tim

    Apparently, the chase plane pilot saw something leaking out of the test flight F-35. Assuming the worst case scenario, they decided to bring it back. It turned out later that the culprit wasn’t really fuel leak, but rather… residual water due to rain/washing. Exactly why they didn’t fly a different plane just to see what happens (fuel don’t leak twice on two jets???) is still a mystery…

  • Tim

    It’s a water residue due to washing/rain. They checked it out and nothing leaked. But one must wonder why they only flew one plane and not try another one.

  • tiger

    As A V-22 Osprey fan, I’m glad there a new plane to debate about. About time to pick on somebody else…..

  • Lance

    The F-35 cant even get off the ground w/o more malfunctions poor plane.

    • passingby

      Don’t blame the poor F-35 please. It’s not the plane’s fault. The pilot didn’t get the correct instructions about this plane … the F-35 was supposed to get underground, not off the ground.

  • Tim UK

    The ruin of the West’s Air Power !

    It will under perform and run way over cost so badly that the USAF,RAF and everyone else will end up ordering if we are lucky 50% of the original numbers . Leaving us with way too few planes that are at best half stealthly and based on Voodoo Weapons and Tactics simulations .

    A disaster .

  • FtD

    i’m sure LM board’s high fiving each other when AF finds another problem so that they can charge another few billions to fix it enough so that a new problem shows up again then another round of high fives…… perfect

  • Lorrie

    So, what’s a “successful failure”?

    • passingby

      Good question. I certainly have no idea about that BUT I just got a bit of “inspiration” from a clowning rant by a clueless cheerleader.

      A possible definition of “successful failure” – a failure endorsed by 9 countries, hundreds of diplomats who made the decision to support hundreds of scientific minds, thousands of engineers and technicians.

      • blight_

        Regardless of the fate of the JSF platform, it’ll require the word “expensive” to precede it. Just like the F-22 and the B-2 Spirit.

  • J Hughes

    They could have and should have cancelled it a couple years ago, but the Pentagon has a perma-boner for the F-35. So they kept the program going saying we need this even if we have to cancel everything else, basically. It all reminds me of that scene in an ashton Kutcher movie where he is soooo determined to make the electrical prong fit into the wrong style outlet. The pentagon knows this program is a technical and financial abomination, but they’ve pushed so hard for it that now they just have to make it work, at all costs.

  • Rightsuffer

    Having worked on the program, I can honestly say it is a money pit. For a plane that was to be cheaper and less capable than the F-22, it is now projected to cost more than the F-22 based on 3000+ aircraft being built. With Japan, Australia, and many other export customers re-considering their intent to buy, cancelations are sure to come. The less planes built=more dollars per plane. Although there is no “On Paper” price yet, it is already estimated at over 140 million US dollars each. FYI the more capable F-22 price was around 120 million US dollars each.

  • Michael

    It is a hideously expensive plane. Maybe they do have to make it work. And maybe that means (to make it work) they’ll be forced to buy a fewer number than they planned. Whether we fight with the F-35 or scrap it, take our knowledge base and start from scratch, we’re going to need a certain level of capability when we go to war against an enemy with sophisiticated surface-to-air defenses. I’d kinda like to see the F-35 to succeed, but on the other hand, it seems like they’re trying to force something through. I’d kinda like to see some brainstorming on possible alternatives to the F-35, using what we’ve learned to come up with something that doesn’t make us all feel like we’re spending money hand over fist and leaving our kids with an increasingly narrow possibility of becoming a pilot because of the shrinking pool of manned planes. (And no, I don’t consider UAV pilots real pilots, just like I don’t consider someone with a radio-controlled car a race car driver.)