(Updates number of F-35Bs headed to UK; confirms their arrival
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, June 27 The U.S. Marine Corps on
Friday resumed flights of its Lockheed Martin Corp F-35B
jets that were suspended following a fire on an Air Force F-35A
and prepared for the jet's global debut in Britain next month
after the discovery of engine pieces from the F-35A pointed to
an issue with that specific model.
"We are continuing with our plans to deploy to the UK next
month," said Marine Corps spokesman Captain Richard Ulsh. He
said the Marine Corps resumed F-35B flights on Friday.
Four F-35B jets arrived early evening on Friday at an air
base in southern Maryland, where they will be readied for their
first trans-Atlantic flights, according to sources familiar with
the program. The jets came from a Marine Corps base in Yuma,
The deployment of the jets to Britain had been called into
question after a fire broke out in the rear of an Air Force
A-model F-35 on Monday as the pilot was preparing to take off
for a training flight.
The Air Force on Thursday suspended flights of all F-35
A-model jets while it investigates the fire. Flights of some
Navy jets were also suspended, but others continued to fly,
according to Navy officials.
Sources familiar with the situation said engine pieces and
fragments were found on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base in
Florida after the fire, the first confirmation that the fire
involved the plane's engine, which was built by Pratt & Whitney,
a unit of United Technologies Corp.
The Air Force has not released any details about its
investigation and a spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the
report that engine components were found.
Pratt builds the engines for all three models of the F-35:
the Air Force's conventional takeoff A-model, the Marine Corps'
B-model, which can land vertically, and the Navy's C-model,
which is for use on aircraft carriers.
The sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said
the discovery of the engine parts did not point to a specific
cause of the fire and said the investigation was continuing.
But they said it cleared the way for the Marine Corps and
Navy to resume flights since their B- and C-model jets have a
Pratt & Whitney spokesman Matthew Bates said his company was
ready to assist in the Air Force investigation, and referred all
further questions to the Air Force.
Lockheed also said it was ready to assist with the
investigation, but declined to comment on the latest news.
One of the sources said discovery of engine fragments on the
runway after the fire could point to several different possible
causes, including a manufacturing quality issue affecting just
the engine in question, which had flown for about 150 hours.
Engine damage could also stem from debris in the engine, or
a maintenance problem, the sources said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Dan Grebler)