The F-35 joint program office has authorized the F-35 fleet to return to unmonitored flight operations for acceptance and ferried flights from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Tex., to the schoolhouse at Eglin AFB, Fla., JPO spokesman Joe DellaVedova told the Daily Report Monday. The final decision was made on Aug. 26, the same day as the official unveiling of the Air Force’s F-35A variant at Eglin (see below). The JPO, however, still has not cleared F-35 production aircraft for unmonitored flights beyond that, he said. The JPO grounded the entire F-35 fleet—test and production aircraft—Aug. 3 after the integrated power package, which helps start the engine and cool the aircraft, malfunctioned on an F-35A test aircraft. Ground operations resumed Aug. 10 and monitored flight operations were authorized Aug. 18. DellaVedova said AF-8 and AF-9, Eglin’s first two F-35A production aircraft, are still undergoing maintenance testing and awaiting flight clearance, which is expected in the fall. There are four production aircraft that have been sitting on Lockheed’s runway awaiting delivery. Those deliveries are expected to occur shortly, he said.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.