Flights for the F-35A Lightning II remained suspended at a Florida Air Force base for the third straight day Wednesday after one of the fighter jets caught fire during a takeoff Monday morning, Air Force officials said.
Training was expected to resume at Eglin Air Force Base on Wednesday, but in a statement, the Air Force said that it decided to keep the F-35As on the ground “in the interest of safety as we continue to investigate the cause of the mishap.”
No one was injured during the incident, and officials didn’t provide details on the extent of the damage. The fighter jet, one of three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons program in the history of the Pentagon, was preparing to take off but had to abort because of a fire in the back of the aircraft.
“We take all ground emergencies seriously,” U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Haas, the 33rd Fighter Wing vice commander, said in a statement. “In this case, the pilot followed the appropriate procedures, which allowed for the safe abort of the mission, engine shutdown, and egress. We have a robust and extensive training program in which every pilot and aircraft crew member is trained, in order to respond quickly and correctly in the event emergencies occur.”
The suspension of flights was the second for the F-35 in a month. Defense Department officials temporarily suspended flights after officials discovered an oil leak in one of the jets two weeks ago. The fighter jet is manufactured by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin.