Grounded F-35s Returning to Flight

The Air Force’s F-35As grounded by an insulation problem in September are beginning to return to flight. On Sept. 16, the service announced it had grounded a total of 15 aircraft—including 10 operational jets at Hill AFB, Utah; two training jets at Luke AFB, Ariz.; and one test plane at Nellis AFB, Nev.—and would need to repair 42 aircraft still on the production line because improperly installed avionics cooling lines deteriorated and left debris in the fuel lines and tank. Two of Hill’s affected jets flew again on Oct. 24 after undergoing the repair process that requires cutting through the aircraft skin and stripping the faulty coating from the coolant lines, according to a 75th Air Base Wing release. Three more are expected to be repaired by Nov. 4. After the grounding, Hill was only left with five operational F-35s, and some pilots were sent to Luke, Nellis, and Eglin AFB, Fla., to maintain proficiency. Hill maintainers expect all 10 of the base’s affected F-35s to be in service by the end of the year, according to the release. The 42 in-production aircraft are also expected to be ready to go by then.