News

F-35’s Ejection Seat Not an Issue

Hilltop Times // October 15, 2015

Ongoing F-35 testing has revealed the jet’s ejection seat could cause fatal neck injuries to lighter-weight pilots.

But officials from both Hill Air Force Base and the Pentagon say that while safety is their No. 1 concern, the issue will have little to no impact on current flying operations.

According to the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, all U.S. services are prohibiting pilots who weigh less than 136 pounds from flying the jet. The restriction was put in place in late August, after testing uncovered an increased risk of injury that could occur during a low-speed ejection.

A Defense News report Oct. 5 said testers discovered that "ejection snapped the necks of lighter-weight test dummies."

F-35 JPO spokesman Joe DellaVedova said in an email that the ejection system in all variants of the F-35 is made by Martin-Baker Aircraft Co., a British company that specializes in ejection seats and other safety-related equipment for the aviation industry.

DellaVedova said his office is working with Martin Baker and F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin to fix the problem as soon as possible, but in the meantime, only one pilot in the F-35 program has been sidelined.

"(For) perspective, the temporary weight restriction only applies to one person," DellaVedova said. "We want to be safe — that’s No. 1. Martin Barker is working 24/7 to make things right."

DellaVedova said the program is "still in the developmental phase," and issues with the jet are constantly discovered and dealt with. DellaVedova cited issues with the jet’s engine, tailhook and helmet as problems that have been discovered and subsequently solved through the testing process.

Read the full article from the Hilltop Times.