The new defense bill provides money for 79 F-35s with Pratt & Whitney engines. Lockheed Martin photo
The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter
The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Lockheed Martin photo

Washington – The Air Force is continuing to investigate the cause of  September’s fire in the rear area of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter on a training mission in Idaho.

An Air Education and Training Command spokesman said the Air Force empaneled a safety investigation board that is probing the fire that grounded the F-35.

The Air Force hasn’t ruled out problems with the jet fighter’s F-135 Pratt & Whitney engine. Before the investigation began, the Air Force said there was not clear evidence of that at the time of the fire.

The safety board is composed of experts from operations, maintenance, and medical commands, but their findings will not be made public.

The Air Force, however, may choose to convene an accident investigation board after the safety team completes its work. Its conclusion would be made public, but that second investigation is not expected to wrap up until spring.

“The intent of these methodical investigations is to ensure the safety of airmen and resources, and to prevent mishaps from happening again,” the spokesman said.

In July 2014, the Pentagon temporarily grounded its fleet of F-35s after an engine fire broke out while a plane was preparing to take off on a training mission at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Investigators determined there was a problem with the rotor in the F-135 Pratt & Whitney engine that caused the fire.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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