Next Week is the highly-anticipated International Paris Air Show, and the F-35A is flying one of the headlining demos.
It will finally showcase itself in a full demo for the first time on June 19, and today the Salon du Bourget / Paris Airshow released video of the bird conducting its first official test flight ahead of next week’s show.
Two demo jets departed the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah early Tuesday, June 3, and landed at Le Bourget Airport in France later that evening.
U.S. Air Force pilots from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, flew the jets on the transatlantic journey, but Lockheed Martin test pilot Billie Flynn, from Canada, will fly the demos in Paris on June 19-21, and again June 23-25.
The controversial Joint Strike Fighter, however, is making news back home in the states again for another reason. Fifty-five jets with the 56th Fighter Wing, Luke AFB, AZ, were grounded indefinitely last week, after pilots reported multiple incidents of oxygen deprivation over the past 2 months.
Pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying,” but a reserve oxygen system was activated so they could return to base safely, US Air Force spokesman Captain Mark Graff told Defense One.
F-22 Raptors were grounded in 2011 for similar “hypoxia-like” incidents.
“The 56th Fighter Wing will continue their pause in local F-35A flying to coordinate analysis and communication between pilots, maintainers, medical professionals and a team of military and industry experts,” said base spokeswoman Major Rebecca Heyse. “This coordination will include technical analysis of the physiological incidents to date and discussions on possible risk mitigation options to enable a return to flying operations.”
The safety of our Airmen is paramount and we will take as much time as necessary to ensure their safety,” Heyse added.
The Air Force is confident the issue is isolated to the 56th FW and F-35 squadrons in Australia, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway, while birds from Hill AFB, Eglin AFB, Edwards AFB (California) and Nellis AFB (Nevada) are fine.
That said, next week’s first full F-35 demo at the Paris Air Show will go on. It will also be the first international demo of the stealth aircraft, and it’s the first visit of a U.S. stealth plane to the Paris Air Show in two decades, following espionage concerns with an F-117 in 1991.
A B-2 conducted a flyby (but never touched the ground) in 1995, and an F-22 visit was called off in 2009.
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