back to article High rear end winds cause F-35A ground engine fire

The US Air Force says a strong tailwind is behind the flight line fire that has grounded yet another of its F-35 fighter aircraft. The F-35A caught fire while getting ready to fly an exercise from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. It was one of seven at the base for surface-to-air training. The fire happened while the …

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  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

    workaround?

    face into the wind when starting?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: workaround?

      Oddly I thought doing that was just good airmanship!!

    2. elDog Silver badge

      Re: workaround?

      That poor F-35 just can't get no respect. It can't fly into the wind and can't fly with the wind at its back.

      The various US services don't want it and only the friendly-airways of some Allies say they might pay for some. The Chinese (and Ruskis and probably NORKS) are all working at defeating its famed capabilities.

      Apparently the only ones who want it are the US defense parasites and their lackeys in congress. Why don't we park the fleet in their back yards? Fourth-of-July fireworks? Sure, start one of those babies up!

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: workaround?

        >The various US services don't want it

        link?

        Are you sure the services want out of it? That would be very good news, and common sense. But I don't remember serving senior procurement-relevant members of the armed forces going on the record and suggesting to ditch it.

        I am sure you can get dozens of anonymous pilots off the record. But the input from the boys and gals at the tip of the spear doesn't outweigh lobbyists, no sirree.

        As far as the Marines go, they got the best end of it - the thing is crap partially because it is a multirole design saddled with all their requirements - so their incentive to bail is even less, they might as well pray that it will somehow muddle through into a decent aircraft at some point.

    3. Vic

      Re: workaround?

      face into the wind when starting?

      Wouldn't you need to have started the engine to get a choice in that?

      Vic.

      1. Vic

        Re: workaround?

        Wouldn't you need to have started the engine to get a choice in that?

        OK, here's a question for my downvoter.

        How are you planning to manoeuvre the aircraft on the apron without using the engine?

        Vic.

        1. yiorgos

          Re: workaround?

          err... the same way it got out of the hangar/carrier garage?

          1. Vic

            Re: workaround?

            err... the same way it got out of the hangar/carrier garage?

            Well, you're not going to see a F-35A on a carrier.

            So how do you think it gets from the hangar to the apron?

            Vic.

            1. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: workaround?

              'So how do you think it gets from the hangar to the apron?'

              A tractor tows it there, or do you think they start the engine up in the hangar? Because that sounds an excellent way of ruining a perfectly good hangar.

            2. CanadianMacFan

              Re: workaround?

              You're never going to see the F-35A on a carrier since it's the only version made not to work on one. The F-35C has the arrestor hook, setup required for catapult launches, and any required strengthening. The F-35B is the STOVL version.

    4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: workaround?

      Maybe a dumb question but couldn't they just point the nozzle down when starting?

    5. CanadianMacFan

      Re: workaround?

      Nay, if you are starting it on land then you must start it in an approved shelter from Lockheed Martin.

      How does facing into the wind make more money for the company? At sea the planes are on a carrier so there isn't much that you can do there.

  2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    At least with the Pinto there actually needed to be a collision at the rear end.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This famous science fiction short story seems to sum it up nicely...

    http://www.mayofamily.com/RLM/txt_Clarke_Superiority.html

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: This famous science fiction short story seems to sum it up nicely...

      I cant remember the name of the story, so cannot find a link; but I remember an even more prophetic sci fi short.

      The super-duper robotic warships defending the coast suddenly stared disappearing without warning - despite sophisticated radar systems, sensitive sonar systems and awesome fire power.

      A recon unit was sent out to investigate and found out they were being attacked and deactivated by an old guy in a row boat, armed with a pair of electrical side cutters.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: This famous science fiction short story seems to sum it up nicely...

        I think an even more insightful old sci-fi novel would be Tik-Tok. In it there is a US military project that so much money has been sunk into (it's an aircraft carrier) that nobody dares to cancel it. So each successive head of defence ploughs even more money into it in an attempt to make it viable. Despite the fact that it's a colossal failure from a strategic point of view.

        It's a good novel, albeit old. About a domestic cleaning robot that kills someone and from there follows the natural progression through crime, to business to politics. The details of the technology in the story have aged and become out of date, but the politics seems to have not changed a bit.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: This famous science fiction short story seems to sum it up nicely...

          Are you sure it wasn't about a current UK carrier?

      2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: deactivated by an old guy in a row boat, armed with a pair of electrical side cutters

        That'll be me in a few years

  4. Big-nosed Pengie

    Can't fly in the rain, can't start in the wind. A triumph of modern marketing.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Wasn't there a Chevy Chase movie with an airplane that had those same faults?

    2. Radio Wales

      Exactly.

      One would expect the cream of scientific and engineering excellence to rise to the top, and in exchange for all our money that is invested in it, produce the best that money could buy.

      Alas, what really happens, is someone pushes a particular design beyond the point where it should have ceased, for no better reason than they are dismayed by the prospect of losing it all.

      So, the inevitable marketing campaign begins, where more and more money is spent trying to get the damn thing to work properly, while the budget for 'convincing' important people of its worth, climbs out of control until the end-game is reached where so much has been spent, that it becomes the only option we can afford so we press on, urged by the people who have been enjoying the expenses-paid ride and are planning their retirements for just before their baby becomes operational.

      So many wonderful things in our past have come to us via this route that one would think we could have thought up an antidote for it by now. But here we are again. Our Harriers are gone and the F-35's will be here sometime never, so it's time we glued AK-47's onto Gladiator wings, and employed small boys to sit in wing pods to keep the magazines filled - because soon we're gonna need them.

    3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      FAIL

      Not marketing I am afraid. Just horrendous project management.

      The good news is that the F-35 has succeeded in its primary mission--to keep Lockheed-Martin's shareholders happy.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "The good news is that the F-35 has succeeded in its primary mission--to keep Lockheed-Martin's shareholders happy."

        Yes, it's rather reminiscent of their Starfighter development programme.

        1. TheDillinquent

          Anyone want to buy an F35?

          Then buy a plot of land and wait...

      2. Triggerfish

        Not always PM some of the PM for the MOD are proper engineers, politics and beancounters that's why you have problems.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Typhoo

      The Eurofighter prototypes refused to turn on in moderate winds because the buffeting of the wind would cause the aircraft to rock and the flight systems couldn't calibrate. I imagine they fixed that problem before production.

  5. Codysydney

    Revive British Leyland and give them the construction contract.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No. Absolutely no. There's some ghastly hideous things you just don't contemplate, not even in jest.

      </cold shiver down spine>

      1. Ol' Grumpy
        Coat

        An F35 with a square steering wheel ..... nice! :D

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        That's great! I'll order 150 of your jet fighters. What do you mean I can only have them in brown or orange?

    2. LionelB

      Revive British Leyland and give them the construction contract.

      Hells no! Back in the day I had a Sherpa van (ex-GPO). It featured "active steering" - if you loosened your grip on the wheel for an instant, it veered violently to one side or the other (depending on the camber of the road).

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        oh heavens

        Thats not the sherpas fault it is because your maintenance department didnt know squat about setting up the toe in.

        Struth.

        TBH at least if we bought BL (or perhaps even built a fighter ourselves... tsr2 would still show the existing fighters up, and a modified supersonic harrier is certainly feasible), around a British engine (yes, Rolls Royce can still make engines), using some British computer trickery for the weapons (and British, not outsourced to India) we would have a product we could sell to others, have some money left in the bank and would have people in Britain employed by the British tax payer, spending their hard earned in the local community etc etc etc and perhaps we wouldnt be a broke country heading rapidly down the u-bend.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Go

      Revive British Leyland and give them the construction contract.

      That would result in serious improvement.

  6. Nolveys Silver badge
    Flame

    I'm not an aeronautical engineer, but wouldn't it be less flammable if they hadn't made it out of money?

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Would certainly have been cheaper

    2. mosw

      Don't worry, the next one will be made out of bitcoin. It won't burn but it might suddenly vanish.

      1. willi0000000

        @mosw

        ooh, stealthy.

  7. DvorakUser
    Facepalm

    A wreck without leaving the ground

    As much as the F-35 is a technological marvel, as a weapon of war it strikes me as an utter abysmal failure. Billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule, and still barely functional. I'd rather have a single F-16 covering my tail than a squadron of F-35s. At least the F-16 has paid for itself multiple times over.

    1. Sampler

      Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

      Out of interest, how does an F-16 pay for itself? I mean, war is a sinkhole of money from a Forces perspective (you pour money in, dead bodies come out the other end).

      I know other parties have vested and profitable interests in war, is that who we're talking about?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

        It all stems from the unwritten, unspoken cost of losing a war, or not finishing one. Losing a war is really, really expensive. This is the "cost" that the bean counters never let you put in the cost-benefit analysis, which leads to the general diminishment of a country's military during extended periods of peace (4 years +)... Winning a war is almost as expensive. The best outcome one can have is to put enough money into the armed forces and then never have to go to war in the first place. Of course, all that equipment and personnel have to look dangerous (and actually be dangerous) to be of any benefit.

        So F16, within the intended limitations of the design, has been wildly successful in that role. Plentiful, affordable, clearly functional, and competent enough that you have to have a fairly sophisticated air defence (a relatively rare thing in today's conflicts) capability to realistically take one on.

        Indeed, when they first started laying into Syria they sent pretty much one of everything over; F22, the lot. However the bulk of the work has been done by the F16s (and probably USN F18s). I saw the deployment of so many different types and F22 in particular (definitely not a ground attack platform) as a means to get the them some "combat experience", for no other reason than to be able to say to Congress "look, they're essential". To have to resort to such low tricks to secure continued funding for various aircraft types says a lot about the state of politics and government in the USA (weak, pork-riddled, ineffective, strategically unfocused), and is itself a damaging sign of weakness in the big strategic game. And so China, reassured, carries on taking over the Western Pacific.

        F35, well that's different. Clearly if it could be made to work properly it would be quite a handful for anyone to take on (primarily thanks to its stealthiness and the missile system they're giving it). Clearly it's not there, yet. However the determination to complete it plays a role in deterrence, but until it is complete one runs the risk of having one's bluff called. Arguably not completing it now would be seen as a serious strategic weakness, a dangerous impression to give!

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

          Arguably not completing it now would be seen as a serious strategic weakness, a dangerous impression to give!

          Why? The US has almost as big a defence budget as the rest of the world combined, and whilst it will need a replacement for the various operational fast jets, it doesn't need the F35, and it face no imminent threat of technical superiority by any other country. In this discussion, it is worth recalling that trying to keep up with Star Wars was what bankrupted the Soviet Union. In this case the US is trying to bankrupt itself. Cancelling the F35 programme sadly isn't going to happen, but if it did, what would the Chinese or Russian's say? :

          a) Good lord, they've scrapped a non-operational money sink! They've only about 3,000 fast jets in service, they must be defenceless - lets invade!

          b) Holy sh**! They've woken up and smelt the coffee. We're in trouble now, because they might actually spend their money on stuff that works.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

          "The best outcome one can have is to put enough money into the armed forces and then never have to go to war in the first place"

          This is OK, but the other side of that is avoiding spending so much on the armed forces that the rest of the system falls apart. Ronny Raygun almost managed it with SDI (the USSR managed to impode first) but sucessive administrations seem hellbent on finishing what he started.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

          " Clearly if it could be made to work properly it would be quite a handful for anyone to take on"

          1: It's not stealthy, except on-axis from the nose

          2: It's decidedly unstealthy with the weapon bay doors open (which it has to do to keep from oveheating)

          3: Those missiles aren't going to help much when it can't surprise anyone and handles like a pig with wings.

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

        The F16 was conceived as a cheap-n-cheerful aircraft to sell to other countries and use when they expensive F15's were in short supply; but over a number of years and weapon/system refinements it became nearly as effective as the F15 and replaced it in many areas/roles.

        Although costing a fraction of the F15, it could match 95% of the F15's combat roles, especially when AMRAAMS replaced Sparrows as the air2air weapon of choice.

        SO yeah, it saved money.

        1. CanadianMacFan

          Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

          I hate to break this to you but the F-35 is the cheap-n-cheerful aircraft to sell to other countries and to use when the F-22 is in short supply. Of course they were worried about the cost of the F-22 and chose to change more of the mix to the F-35. Oops!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

            "cheap-n-cheerful"

            => expensive-n-cheerful

            FIFY

    2. Vic

      Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

      As much as the F-35 is a technological marvel

      I'm really not sure it is.

      The Lightning II could not intercept the Lightning - an aircraft that flew over six decades earlier...

      Vic.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: A wreck without leaving the ground

        "" This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

        In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. "

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "... excessive blade rubbing ..."

    How's it like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They put too many tealights in its chafing dish brazier

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