Trillion-Dollar Plane Grounded Once Again

Illustration for article titled Trillion-Dollar Plane Grounded Once Again

I've lost count on the many times the F-35 has been grounded already (ok, I didn't, it's been five). It feels like a $1 trillion joke that is not funny at all. Now, 15 brand new F-35s are now dead ducks because of a stupid mistake.

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They loaded the parachutes in their ejection seats in the wrong way, they were "reversed 180 degrees from design during installation," according to Joe Dellavedova, at the Joint Strike Fighter Joint Program Office. The reason for the incorrect loading of the parachutes was "improperly drafted packing procedures." A one trillion dollar plane grounded by "improperly drafted packing procedures." Let that sink for a bit.

Dellavedova argues that this "wouldn't have prevented the pilot from ejecting and landing." But of course, it wouldn't be the right kind of landing and the pilots could have been injured because they would be hitting the ground in the wrong position, according to Aviation Week's industry experts:

One industry source notes, however, that an ejection "would have likely caused passenger load factor injury" because pilots would "have hit the ground going backwards." Because the parachutes were loaded backwards, their steering lines would also have been reversed, affecting a pilot's ability to guide himself to a landing site.

Which of course, it's the reason why the 15 airplanes have been grounded.

The replacement Martin-Baker US16E-21 and -23 seats—featuring Properly Loaded Parachutes among their many advanced features—are going to arrive in ten days.

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The planes are based at at Edwards Air Force Base in California and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, plus three airplanes at Lockheed Martin's facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

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A history of failures

This is not the first time the F-35 has been grounded. The last time the plane was grounded was in August 2011. That time, the airplane had a power system failure that affected cockpit temperature control and backup power. It was later cleared again for flight, even while it wasn't fixed.

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Before that, the F-35 fleet had two more grounding orders, bringing the total to four so far. The first grounding order came on October 2010, caused by a software failure detected during simulations. The second order came on March 2011, after an in-flight generator failure and oil leak was discovered.

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Apart from these problems, the beleaguered Joint Strike Fighter project has suffered from numerous development, manufacturing and schedule delays, which have put the whole program into question several times. Even parts that seemed to be finished and working—like its scary demon helmet that could see through the plane itselfhave had problems. [Aviation Week]

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DISCUSSION

onerunjunior
onerunjunior

As an ejection seat mechanic, the report by the "experts" is patently false. It is impossible for a pilot to hit the ground "backwards" in a parachute from the steering lines being opposite of normal function. They pilot supersonic aircraft (for cripes sake), and could easily adapt to something like that. I find it absolutely hilarious that you, Jesus Diaz, a man with a quick temper, thin skin, and no other qualifications than that of a "writer" for a pretty crappy online blog/"news" site can possibly justify passing judgement on someone packing a parachute backwards. I'm pretty sure you only know who Martin Baker is simply from your 45 second read on Wikipedia.

As someone who has packed a similar ejection seat parachute to this, a mistake like that, ESPECIALLY one written in your manual wrong, is very easy to do. That's why it was caught. There are procedures in place to catch simple mistakes like this, evidence proving my point because it was caught, and the pilot was in absolutely no danger of hitting the ground "backwards" like they claim. Stick to getting your feelings hurt and writing nothing of journalistic value Jesus. You have absolutely no place in criticizing anyone involved with this easily fixed mistake. You ban people for calling out your bullshit for a living, how you justify being such a smug asshole is a story for the ages. The audacity you have for trying to seem superior to someone with a job that is actually useful and requires skill and intelligence is just absolutely hilarious. You're a blog writer with the emotional stability of a 14 year old girl, go back to throwing tantrums and let the adults of the world do something of value. Like fix their mistakes in a timely and honest fashion rather than pitch a fit and act like a spoiled bitch.