The Thursday morning crash of an F-35B at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth that resulted in the successful ejection of the pilot is now under investigation.
Video obtained by NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth shows the F-35B bouncing back into the air upon landing on the runway, with the aircraft then pitching forward. The F-35B’s nose then contacted the runway surface after the nose landing gear broke, spinning the aircraft around and only stopping after the pilot’s ejection.
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin has confirmed that the F-35B involved was still owned by the company at the time of the accident, following a statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder during a press conference later on Thursday that the F-35B had yet to be transferred to the United States government, but was piloted by a U.S. government employee at the time of the crash. In a statement issued following the crash, the company said: “we are aware of the F-35B crash on the shared runway at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth and understand that the pilot ejected successfully. Safety is our priority, and we will follow appropriate investigation protocol”.
In a statement on Twitter, White Settlement police chief Christopher Cook said that the pilot was safe and under observation after ejecting. Cook told the Dallas Morning News that police had responded at 10:15 AM Thursday after multiple calls reporting the crash and ejection, closing off public areas near the runway at the request of Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense.
While there is currently no information on whether the pilot manually ejected, the F-35B is equipped with an automatic ejection system in the event of a mishap in hover mode like the Thursday crash. According to a source familiar with the F-35B, the behavior of the aircraft involved suggests that the F-35B’s lift fan had stopped generating thrust while the engine continued to do so, resulting in the aircraft pitching over.
All three models of the F-35 are built at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility, which shares a runway with the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. Before it became the F-35 production line, the government-owned, contractor-operated facility officially known as Air Force Plant 4 housed the production line of the F-16.
Header image via NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth