Exclusive: Parachute issue grounds some Lockheed F-35 jets

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2012 2:13 PM
Exclusive: Parachute issue grounds some Lockheed F-35 jets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon grounded six Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets at a California air base due to a problem with the parachutes packed under the pilot's ejection seat, two sources familiar with the issue told Reuters.

Additional F-35 fighter planes being flown at a U.S. Navy air station in Maryland are not affected because they use a different ejection seat, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record.

The affected parachutes, manufactured by a privately owned British company, Martin Baker, were improperly folded and must be adjusted before the aircraft can resume test flights at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, said the sources.

The company also needs to swap out parachutes on F-35 jets at a Florida air base where the Air Force hopes to start training flights this summer, according to the sources. Those flights have not yet begun.

(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Derek Caney)