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US Marines pause flights as the search continues for lost F-35

Kate Duffy, Tony Capaccio and Julie Johnsson, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

The chief of the U.S. Marines ordered a pause in air operations to review safety and best practices as the military continued its search for a $100 million F-35 fighter jet that disappeared after a mishap forced the pilot to eject from the aircraft during a training mission over South Carolina.

The Marine Corps said in a statement that General Eric Smith, the service’s acting commandant, “directed all Marine Corps aviation units to conduct a two-day pause in operations this week to discuss aviation safety matters and best practices.” It cited three “Class A’ mishaps in the last six weeks: the F-35 lost on Sunday as well as two other “Class A” incidents: the crashes of an F/A-18 in California that killed the pilot and an MV-22 Osprey in Australia that killed five Marines.

Earlier, the military asked for civilian help in finding the F-35B Lightning II jet that suffered a “mishap” on Sunday afternoon, according to social media posts by Joint Base Charleston, an air base in South Carolina.

The base said emergency response teams have been joined by Navy and civil air patrol teams trying to find the plane. “Teams continue to search for the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, using ground and air assets,” the base said in a post Monday afternoon.

The unidentified pilot ejected safely, was taken to a local hospital and is in stable condition, according to the Marine Corps, which operates the jet.

Transponder questions


The military’s inability to track the sophisticated aircraft raised questions about whether its transponder, a device that sends out signals on a plane’s location, was working properly during the flight and after the pilot’s ejection.

“We’re not certain exactly what the issue with the transponder was, but the bottom line was that we needed the public’s help to track the plane,” said Jeremy Huggins, a civilian spokesman at the base in Charleston. Transponders “should normally be working,” he said. “That’s a requirement we have.”

The air base said it was working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to search for the plane north of North Charleston around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, based on its last-known location.

“The mishap is currently under investigation,” the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing said in a statement. “The Department of the Navy has a well-defined process for investigating aircraft mishaps. We are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigatory process.”


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