F-35's International Debut Axed

Fleet no longer grounded, but restrictions will keep plane from crossing Atlantic
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2014 3:19 PM CDT
U.S. Air Force Col. Roderick Cregier flies his F-35 , right, next to an F-16 before landing at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., Monday, March 10, 2014.   (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Tingle)

(Newser) – The F-35 fighter jet is back in the air, with limitations. The military's entire 97-plane fleet was grounded earlier this month following a June 23 engine fire. As the New York Times reports, the investigation thus far hasn't uncovered a design flaw. The apparent problem was a turbine blade in the engine whose "excessive rubbing" led to friction that broke a fan blade and started the fire; no other plane's turbine blades were found to have a similar issue. The jet has now been given a limited flight clearance with an engine inspection regimen and restrictions on its flights, but that clearance won't allow it to make its international debut before would-be buyers at the Farnborough International Airshow this week.

The Times says the potential no-show has been "the talk" of the airshow, which started yesterday in Southern England, with a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in London calling it "a huge embarrassment." The Pentagon's press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, today said it was a "difficult decision" to cancel the appearance, but explained that a number of restrictions essentially prohibit the F-35 from crossing the Atlantic. Among them: After a maximum of three hours of flight the front fan section of the engine must be inspected, he said per the AP. (Read more F-35 stories.)

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