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Dangers of an F-35 Crash

Dangers of an F-35 crash–Burlington Free Press, 9/26/13

The purpose of my hour-and-a-half long meeting with the Free Press last week was to make them aware of the unprecedented dangers of an F-35 crash in an urban area.

For the past year and a half, my main focus has been on protecting innocent civilians and saving lives. It is those who are pressing hard for flying F-35s out of Burlington who are being cavalier about the safety of our citizens and pilots. I am the most safety-minded one in this discussion.

One of the very first things that alarmed me in the Air Force environmental impact report was the safety assessment of the F-35. The Air Force clearly stated that the F-35 had no safety record, as it was too new an aircraft. Even worse, the report projected that the F-35s’ safety would be comparable to the F-22 — an aircraft that has a poor safety record, with seven crashes in its first 100,000 flying hours.

As I have stated repeatedly, it is inevitable that the F-35 will crash. It will crash multiple times in the next few years, just as every previous new U.S. fighter has crashed at an elevated rate in its early years. I don’t want it to crash, and I especially don’t want it to have its first crash in our area. I devoted most of my life in service to my country, and I respect and admire those still serving, and would never want any harm to come to them.

What I do want is to ensure that when the inevitable happens, the F-35 doesn’t crash in an urban area where it will kill innocent uninvolved civilians. I want those early crashes to occur at remote testing bases far from population centers — as the Air Force has done for every previous fighter. Those first crashes should not occur in any populated area.

Unfortunately, I now realize I overestimated the reporter’s knowledge of military aircraft safety. And, as a result, and quite unintentionally, he was not able to clearly convey my meaning about the inevitability of F-35 crashes in the Free Press article. But it is outrageous that some of the supporters of the F-35 basing here are deliberately and maliciously misinterpreting my words as a desire for a crash.

Given that the basing choice will be made soon, it is essential that our citizens, our elected representatives and our Air Force leaders comprehend the horrors of what will happen when the F-35 — an aircraft made with highly flammable dangerously toxic composite materials — crashes in a residential area. That was the reason for the meeting with the Burlington Free Press.

If the F-35 is based here, first responders and people who live and work in the surrounding areas must be prepared and protected from the fire, and the unavoidable clouds of lung-searing toxic gases and toxin-bearing fibers that would stream from burning composite wreckage for days. When a B-2 composite bomber crashed at an Air Force base, it took 83,000 gallons of water, 2,500 gallons of foam, every Air Force firefighter on base (53), every piece of firefighting equipment, and four fire trucks from off base over two days to extinguish the flames. Numerous articles and toxicology papers have been written demonstrating these dangers. I provided some of them to the Free Press during our meeting.

Moreover, in addition to the known hazards of standard carbon composite materials, the F-35 has additional layers of far more toxic stealth coatings. Stealth toxicity is not a hypothetical danger: Air Force people have already died, and some have been disabled for life by inhaling the fumes from the burning of stealth coatings on military aircraft.

Willfully ignoring these dangers will not protect our people or our pilots or our first responders. So when the inevitable Joint Strike Fighter crashes occur, I pray that none happen in Burlington — or in any other city.

Rosanne Greco is a member of the South Burlington City Council and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.