Burning Down the Risk

The General Accounting Office and some members of Congress are skittish about concurrency—testing aircraft while building more at the same time—in the F-35 stealth fighter program, but they shouldn’t be unduly worried. That’s the word from Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Heinz, the new F-35 program executive officer. Heinz told reporters at his offices Tuesday that the program made “over $2 billion in up-front investments” in computer-aided design tools “to burn down risk so we could have that concurrency.” He acknowledged that flight testing has been slow to build up, but flight tests so far have largely confirmed what was predicted by the computer models. The test program, he said, is about “validation, not discovery.” He added that “I simply don’t believe we will have” a major problem pop up in flight test akin to the wing drop issue found on the F/A-18E/F earlier in the decade. However, he’s certain that flight test will turn up small issues such as “things we need to seal” and other minor manufacturing corrections.