Pratt suspended F-35 engine shipments in May over titanium

Fri Aug 29, 2014 4:50pm EDT

Aug 29 (Reuters) - United Technologies Corp's Pratt & Whitney unit briefly suspended delivery of the engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet in May because of questions about titanium provided to a parts supplier.

Pratt said on Friday it discovered conflicting documentation in late May that raised questions about the origin of the titanium, which was also used in parts for engines made by its Pratt & Whitney Canada division. The Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 strike fighter is the Pentagon's costliest weapons program.

Pratt determined very quickly that the material did not pose a flight safety risk, company spokesman Matthew Bates said in an emailed statement.

"While the tested material may not meet every Pratt & Whitney material control standard, our engine designs have significant amounts of margin and, based on our engineering assessments, such material does not pose a risk to safety of flight," Bates said.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program office, agreed that the material does not pose a risk to flight safety and said the part "will be replaced by attrition."

Bates said Pratt reported its concerns at the time to U.S. authorities, including the Justice and Defense departments. A federal investigation being conducted into the source of the titanium, whose origin remains unknown, DellaVedova said.

Pratt eliminated the supplier from its supply chain, Bates said.

Engine deliveries for the F-35 program have been suspended since a separate June 23 incident, in which the engine on an Air Force training jet broke apart and caught fire just before takeoff from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Company and military officials are investigating the cause of the Eglin incident. Bates said that Pratt and has a potential fix and plans to conduct tests next month. (Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)