USAF F-35s Cleared To Return To Flight After Ejection-Seat Issue Resolved


The U.S. Air Force fleet of some 376 F-35A fifth-generation fighters is back in the air after problems with ejection seats, reported by AVweb two weeks ago, grounded them. According to an email from USAF Air Combat Command spokeswoman Alexi Worley to Defense News, technicians checked 706 ejection-seat cartridges from 349 USAF F-35s, along with spares. Four were replaced due to potential problems.

A small number of the fighters remain to be checked, but since they are already undergoing 90-day inspections, their ejection seats will be reviewed as part of the normal inspection protocol.

An alert technician at Hill Air Force Base in Utah in April discovered a loose cartridge with its magnesium charge missing. Inspections of several other F-35s led to the conclusion it was an isolated incident and the stealth fighters were allowed to return to operations.

But ejection-seat manufacturer Martin-Baker checked its components inventory and uncovered two additional defective cartridges in April. A quality check revealed that its production process was creating the defective cartridges and the F-35 Joint Program Office ordered an inspection of all ejection seats within 90 days.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. But HOW is the POSSIBLE?
    Everything is supply-chain supplier qualified! ISO9000 certified! Gender & Inclusive Corporate culture! VP of Quality accountable! Executive compensation per industry standards!
    (except if the poor pilot needed to pull that red handle and Ooooppss no eject!)
    BECAUSE it is ALL just pretty paper with NO ONE putting eyeballs on the product to confirm and check.
    ….and so it goes on and on and on….

  2. Nature’s creation Man, Man’s creations systems & machines, all are fallible. Personally I think this particular system worked pretty well…this time.

    • Key was observant mind.

      A Pacific Western Airlines Inspector leaned against a cowling of a B737-200 while waiting for a technician to finish something.

      Oh, it moved! Is that normal?

      One of the engine mount bolts was missing.

      That could have been serious – departing engine could tear off at least part of trailing flaps on that side.

      Boeing’s design had head of bolt down on forward pair of mounts, obviously nut had not been tightened.

      Boeing held a banquet in his honour and did other things to get message across to Boeing workers.

      • CPAir did tests with some of its staff to see if some Inspectors were better than others at spotting anomalies in fuselage structure.

        Concluded some were indeed, perhaps mind better suited.

  3. I’m curious if this problem is only limited to American versions of the F-35, or if our allies who also operate the plane need to do the same inspections. Kudos to the alert technician at Hill AFB for recognizing the problem.