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F-35 plane marked for Nellis still being examined in Texas

An F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jet destined for Nellis Air Force Base that made a precautionary landing March 11 at the Lubbock, Texas, airport is still there, a spokesman for manufacturer Lockheed Martin said Thursday.

“When they went to power up the aircraft, it got another caution light indicating the issue was with the communication system,” said Lockheed’s F-35 program spokesman, Michael Rein.

He said the problem is isolated to that jet and not the fleet of $67 million F-35s.

“The good news is it isn’t impacting flight testing out there,” he said, referring to the Nellis base, where three F-35s were delivered to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron last month.

Once technicians unravel what appears to be a wiring-connector issue and fix the problem, the jet that is stranded at the Lubbock International Airport will be flown back to Lockheed’s production plant in Fort Worth as a test flight before it is cleared to resume its journey to Nellis, he said.

“We want to make sure we don’t fly the plane when it’s not safe,” Rein said.

During an arrival ceremony at Nellis on March 19, Rein had described the problem as “a wire connector issue in the flight control system.”

He said the pilot was never in danger because F-35 stealth fighter jets have triple redundant backup systems for flight control.

The F-35, with the F-22 Raptor, is considered the most high-tech aircraft in the world.

After the arrival ceremony, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey G. Lofgren reflected on the challenge faced by the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron to make F-35s combat-ready.

“This is so complex and so advanced, there’s going to be huge amounts of information that we’re going to have to analyze to make sure we understand,” Lofgren said on March 19.

The one that made the precautionary landing March 11 was flying from the production plant with a second F-35. They both landed at the Lubbock airport, but the second one continued its flight to Nellis to join two others that had been delivered.

Nellis is expected to have 36 Lightning IIs for testing and training by 2020.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

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