Thursday, October 7, 2010

F-35s back in the sky

Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II test planes are flying again after being grounded late last week due to software glitches involving the jets' fuel pumps, company officials have confirmed.

"Over the weekend, we loaded the software solution onto the flight test aircraft," company spokesman John Kent said late on Oct. 5. "This morning, we received clearance to fly the two aircraft at [Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.] and just a few minutes ago, AF-1 took off."

While the conventional takeoff F-35As are cleared to fly, the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) F-35Bs have yet to receive clearance. Additional problems with the B model's auxiliary inlet door are keeping those jets on the ground, according to the company.

"We expect the STOVL test aircraft to receive clearance very soon and to resume [conventional-takeoff-and-landing or CTOL] operations later this week," Kent said. "The F-35B jets are still restricted to CTOL-mode only operations, as we implement the corrective actions that address the auxiliary inlet door issue."

Lockheed has acknowledged in recent months that flight testing had been delayed on the F-35B after a series of problems were discovered involving things like inlet door hinges, as the plane shifted from forward to vertical flight.

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