By: Jess Aloe for the Burlington Free Press, Oct. 29, 2018
The Vermont Air National Guard is still on track to begin receiving 20 F-35A jets next September, according to the 158th Fighter Wing’s commanding officer—even after the Pentagon grounded the entire F-35 fleet following a crash in South Carolina.
Inspectors checked fuel tubes on the planes’ engines. If mechanics found a plane had good fuel tubes, the plane was cleared to fly. About eighty percent of operational F-35s were cleared a few days after they were grounded. The Pentagon is working to replace the suspect fuel tubes on the remaining planes.
“New aircraft crash more frequently in the earlier years of flying,” said Rosanne Greco, a former Air Force colonel and South Burlington city councilor who has been one of the most vocal opponents of the basing. “You don’t want this brand-new aircraft being in the middle of the city.”
South Carolina crash not the first mishap
The Beaufort crash was billed as the fighter plane’s first crash, but the planes have suffered mishaps in the past.
All F-35A jets had to be grounded in 2014 after the tail of a plane caught fire during takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Another F-35A caught fire in Idaho in 2016. Investigators determined the fire was caused by strong tailwinds present as the engine started, not a problem with the engine itself.