"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, Arizona.
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 UTX.N.
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.
[to top of second column]
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 different
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)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.