Monday, February 25, 2013

F-35: Engine blade crack grounds fleet

The F-35 fleet has been grounded due to an engine blade crack in one of them.

And, of course, the more hysterical among the anti-F-35 media are taking this opportunity to again push the "troubled program" meme.

Anyone who has watched or been a part of any program to develop an new system knows that these sorts of things happen.  In fact, that's what the testing program is for, to find problems before they become major problems and fix them.

Pratt and Whitney, the manufacturer of the engine, has issued the following statement:

On Feb 19, 2013, a routine engine inspection revealed indication of a crack on the 3rd Stage Low Pressure Turbine airfoil of the F-35A aircraft AF-2 operating at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Engineering teams are shipping the engine and its associated hardware to Pratt & Whitney’s Engine Facility in Middletown, CT, to conduct more thorough evaluations to determine the cause of the indication. It is too soon to tell if there is a fleet wide safety concern. However, as a precautionary measure, all F-35 flight operations have been suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the blade indication is fully understood. Pratt & Whitney is working closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin, and its military customers to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible. 
What will happen now is all the F-35s in the fleet will be inspected and inspectors will try to determine whether the crack is a one off or a design or manufacturing problem.  It may simply be the result of the engine ingesting a foreign object at some time or other.   But, in the interest of safety and until that determination can be positively made, they've grounded the fleet.

Of course, you can expect some among the journalistic profession covering this story to imply that this is huge set back and virtually unprecedented.  But that's simply not true:






What it is, instead, is a routine cautionary measure used to ensure the safety of the pilots until a determination of cause can be made.

Nothing more.


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