F-35A fighter jet flights suspended after fire at U.S. air base

WASHINGTON, June 23 Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:37pm EDT

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Monday temporarily halted flights at a Florida air base of 26 F-35A fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp after a jet caught fire as it was preparing to take off for a training flight, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The pilot aborted the takeoff and was not injured, said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon's F-35 program office. He had no immediate details on the extent of the damage to the F-35 conventional takeoff and landing model.

The fire occurred in the rear part of the plane where the engine is located. Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, said it was aware of the incident and was ready to assist in the Air Force investigation.

DellaVedova said it was unclear what caused the fire, but Air Force officials had temporarily suspended flights of the A-model jets at the base until more details were available. He said the F-35 program office was supporting the investigation with engineering experts.

"Safety is paramount, and all F-35A flight operations have been temporarily suspended at Eglin as they investigate the nature of the incident" he said.

Emergency responders were able to put out the fire, which occurred around 0915 local time, he said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chris Reese)

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