F-35 Ejection Seat Issue Grounds Lighter Pilots

The Defense Department has restricted pilots weighing less than 136 pounds from flying the F-35 because of an issue with the ejection seat, the F-35 program office told Air Force Magazine. Lighter pilots are at greater risk of injury if they have to eject at low speed, so the services, which restricted such pilots from operating the plane beginning Aug. 27. At least one pilot is affected. All variants of the F-35 use the same Martin Baker US16E ejection seat system, said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program office. He noted the aircraft is still in the developmental phase, “where discoveries are expected to happen. That’s why we test: to make things better for the warfighter.” Still, he stressed, safety is critical. “The F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin, and Martin Baker continue to work this issue with the US services and international partners to reach a solution as quickly as possible,” he said.