Pentagon reviewing Pratt recommendation to resume F-35 flights

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 28, 2013 4:24pm EST

WASHINGTON Feb 28 (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Thursday it was reviewing a recommendation by Pratt & Whitney to resume flights and ground operations of the F-35 fighter jet, lifting a grounding order issued last week after inspectors found a cracked engine blade on a test plane.

Spokesman Kyra Hawn said officials from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and the Pentagon's F-35 program office were reviewing data from a comprehensive engineering investigation conducted by Pratt about the cracked blade, but said no decision had yet been made on whether to lift the grounding order.

Pratt spokesman Matthew Bates confirmed the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office was assessing the company's recommendation to resume flights but declined to offer any further comment.

Pratt, a unit of United Technologies Corp, supplies the engine for the single-engine, single-seat fighter plane, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Pentagon announced the grounding of all F-35 warplanes on Friday after an inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of an F-35 being tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

It was the second engine-related grounding in two months of the $396 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's largest weapons program. The Marines Corps version of the plane was grounded for nearly a month starting in mid-January because of a faulty hose in the engine.

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