Lockheed, USAF hold breath as F-35 pilots report hypoxia

Toothless Tiger Moths at Arizona base grounded

A quarter of the world's F-35s have been temporarily grounded after starving their pilots of oxygen.

The announcement was made by the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona after five F-35A pilots reported “physiological incidents” after which they had to draw on backup oxygen supplies before landing.

Luke's announcement says the grounding only applied to aircraft at its base.

Since 55 of the 220 F-35s currently flying worldwide are at Luke, the grounding takes out one-quarter of the world's squadron.

The incidents have been happening between May 2nd and last Thursday, June 8th, when the base decided to suspend flights. A total of five hypoxia incidents happened in that period – roughly one a week.

The US Air Force announcement says pilots at Luke will be briefed, given extra training to recognise the symptoms of hypoxia, and briefed on the recovery actions taken by pilots who have gone through the experience.

All eyes will now be on Lockheed, because as Reuters reports, the company will wants to show off the F-35 at next week's Paris Air Show.

Reuters adds that the US Air Force hoped to resume flights Monday US time, but since then the ban on flights at Luke has been extended indefinitely. ®

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