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News | March 13, 2023

Team effort gets F-35 flying again

By DCMA Lockheed Martin Forth Worth

Less than three months after an F-35 Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing variant mishap at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth brought flight operations to a halt, Defense Contract Management Agency is resuming aircraft acceptance thanks to the hard work of the entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enterprise team.

“Working closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin, DCMA Pratt and Whitney, and Pratt and Whitney, we were able to develop a timely and safe strategy in a short period of time to resume flight operations,” said Air Force Col. Joseph Wimmer, commander of Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin Fort Worth. “We coordinated seven days a week to keep the team informed and coordinate efforts during the entire process.”

Following the Dec. 15, 2022, DCMA LM Fort Worth flight operations executed post mishap reporting requirements and halted all F-35 flight operations at the three F-35 Final Assembly and Check-Out facilities until the cause was identified. 

Last week, the F-35 JPO identified the issue as a harmonic resonance problem, which only impacted a small number of aircraft. Regardless, the worldwide fleet of F-35s will receive a retrofit to fix the issue.

According to Adam Levine, DCMA LM Fort Worth chief of flight operations, the agency’s flight operations team maintained pilot currency through flying opportunities with service units while supporting the Aviation Mishap Board with personnel where needed. 

DCMA’s engineering team ensured the correct processes and procedures were followed by both prime contractors. Constant communication allowed information sharing across the enterprise and kept the team informed of issues, as well as the testing and mitigation development, all to ensure the safe return to flight of the F-35.

As developments proceeded, Lockheed Martin received two short takeoff and vertical landing, or STOVL, engines early in the process, which minimized production disruption and allowed engine runs to begin before all testing and airworthiness approvals were completed.

“Teamwork and solid relationships were critical for the F-35 return to flight endeavors and ensured both prime contractors were proceeding correctly and safely,” said Wimmer.