The U.S. Air Force’s 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona said yesterday that F-35 training flights will remain grounded until further notice due to five separate incidents highlighting “irregularities” in the pilots’ oxygen supplies.
The grounding was initially planned to be only short-term when it was first announced last Friday. The Air Force said the five incidents occurred at Luke between May 2 to June 8 with symptoms that resembled hypoxia. In each case the aircraft's backup oxygen system worked as designed and the aircraft landed safely. Luke’s fighter contingent includes 55 F-35A Lightning IIs and typically operates 25 training flights a day.
A service spokesperson said the halt to training activities will allow the F-35 Joint Program office of engineers, pilots, mechanics and medical personnel an opportunity to study the oxygen problem.
Air Force officials said the Wing also plans to educate U.S. and international pilots on the oxygen situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms after being briefed on the incidents over the past month. Pilots will also be briefed on other actions used to recover the affected aircraft.
F-35 operations at other USAF bases have not been affected by the Luke grounding. Lockheed Martin, the F35s builder, said the Lightning II’s demonstration flights at the upcoming Paris Air Show will also not be affected by the grounding.