Faulty F-35 fuel lines to be scanned in U.S. instead of Britain

Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:33pm EST
 

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Faulty fuel lines blamed for the grounding of the Marine Corps version of the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: Quote) F-35 fighter jet will likely undergo third-party inspections in the United States, instead of being sent to England, to save time and money, sources familiar with the program said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon on Monday said it found that a fuel line built by Stratoflex, a unit of Parker Hannifin Corp (PH.N: Quote), had been improperly crimped.

The defect caused the fuel line to detach and fail just before a training flight took off at a Florida Air Force base on January 18.

The incident led to the grounding of all 25 Marine Corps versions of the new warplane, raising questions about the program's ability to keep an aggressive flight test schedule on the $396 billion program.

U.S. military officials want all the lines produced by Stratoflex for the F-35 B-model inspected using CT scans since the variance was measured in thousandths of an inch and would not be easily detected otherwise, according to a defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

CT scans are most commonly used in medical procedures, but can also detect flaws within components.

Normally the lines would be inspected at a facility of Britain's Rolls-Royce Plc RROYC.UL in England, since Stratoflex is a subcontractor to Rolls Royce.

But Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp UTX.N and the prime contractor for the overall engine, hope to speed up the process and save money by using third-party CT scanners in Minnesota and Texas, if Pentagon officials certified those sites, the sources said.   Continued...