The Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will not fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2014 this weekend, 11 to 13 July, as all of the aircraft currently remain grounded in the USA pending investigation following an engine fire during the testing programme.
Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince said the decision was a great disappointment given the amount of planning that had gone into bringing the aircraft over to RIAT for its international display debut.
He said: “It’s not unusual for there to be delays in the development programme of any new military aircraft, and the Air Tattoo has been working closely with teams from Lockheed Martin, the US Marine Corps, Department of Defence and MoD to ensure the aircraft touched down at RAF Fairford for the Air Tattoo. Unfortunately we’ve simply run out of time.”
The Lightning II, in different variants, is due to become a key element in the UK air defences, in service with the RAF and the Navy.
Top, a mock-up of the F35B was pictured at RAF Fairford. Below, 79 years difference between the Lightning II and Hurricane alongside each other. Pictures by Richard Wintle of Calyx on 10 July.
An MoD spokesman said "The safety of pilots and aircraft has to be our priority. Of course, it is disappointing that the Lightning II has not arrived in the UK in time for the Air Tattoo but we fully support the decision not to grant clearance for the aircraft to make their first transatlantic flight to the UK until the technical investigations following an engine failure are complete.”
Mr Prince added: “We fully understand and support the decision as safety of pilots and aircraft has to be paramount.
“Fortunately, the F-35B is only one of more than 200 exciting aircraft representing 33 air arms from 27 countries around the globe that will be taking part in RIAT 2014, which begins on Friday 11 July. We are looking forward to staging the UK’s biggest celebrations marking the RAF Red Arrows 50th display season at the world’s largest military airshow.”
The F-35B in flight. Photo: US Marine Corps