On December 15, an F-35B suffered a nose dive and swirled after briefly touching down on the shared runway at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth.
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The incident occurred on December 15, which also marks the maiden flight of the F-35A, which took place on that same date in 2006.
The specific cause of the mishap is still unknown; however, a video showing the F-35B hovering as it starts to tumble vertically has surfaced online.
The jet makes its initial touchdown, then bounces back into the air before making a hard nose-first down on the runway. The nose gear can be seen completely collapsing before the pilot ejects and the jet rolls onto the ground.
The incident also demonstrated the Martin-Baker US16E ejection seat’s so-called “zero-zero” capabilities, as it could operate even with the aircraft practically on the ground safely.
A Pentagon spokesperson stated that a US government pilot was operating the aircraft at the time of the incident. However, the aircraft had not yet been passed to the military by its maker, Lockheed Martin.
According to a statement released by a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, they were aware of the incident but believed the pilot was safe. “Safety is our priority, and we will follow appropriate investigation protocol,” it added.
An image posted on social media after the incident also shows the aircraft resting on its nose, and according to local accounts, the crash was caused by the aircraft’s failed hovering test.
The Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth shares a runway with Lockheed Martin’s final F-35 assembly facility. The incident location was secured by White Settlement Police officers, the US Navy, and Lockheed Martin staff, according to White Settlement Police Chief Christoper Cook.
“According to Cook, a Lockheed-owned jet suffered a malfunction that forced the pilot to eject the aircraft. Cook said the pilot safely ejected but had no other information about the pilot’s condition,” NBC DFW reported.
This is the second plane to crash near the facility in the last few years. A T-45C Goshawk jet trainer, operated by the Navy, crashed in Lake Worth in September 2021. Both pilots managed to eject from the aircraft and survive the crash.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin provided no details on the pilot’s condition or what may have caused the crash. The Tarrant County factory employs over 18,000 people and is the central location where the company produces F-35 combat aircraft.
The F-35B Lightning II has a vertical lift fan and a pivoting engine nozzle, allowing it to land vertically and take off quickly from expeditionary airfields. According to the company’s website, it is used by the United States Marine Corps, the United Kingdom, and the Italian Air Force.
In early December, the Marine Corps also experienced an issue with the F-35B Lightning II fighter. According to the Marine Corps Times, a problem with the landing gear mechanism caused the plane’s nose to hit the ground while towing.
Due to an electrical system issue, the pilot had to land at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. The incident is the subject of ongoing investigations.
“The pilot performed as trained and chose the safest option, landing the aircraft safely by standard procedures,” Major Roberto Martins, a 1st Marine Aircraft Wing spokesperson, said in the statement.
In October 2022, the F-35A Lightning II crashed at Hill Air Force Base, south of Ogden, Utah. The jet’s pilot made an emergency exit while returning to Hill Air Force Base during a routine training mission recovery.
On January 24, 2022, the F-35C jet crashed on an aircraft carrier’s deck while performing routine flight operations in the South China Sea. In the end, the plane rolled off the deck into the water, injuring seven men, including the pilot.
Meanwhile, the Navy and Marine Corps have been exploring the concept of the “Lightning Carrier,” as previously reported by the EurAsian Times. The Navy deployed 16 F-35Bs onto the USS Tripoli (LHA-7) in April, with more due later.
It was the largest number of F-35Bs ever put onto a large-deck amphibious ship. Tripoli was sent to the Western Pacific in May and spent the first few months evaluating the lightning carrier concept.