Oct. 15 (UPI) -- After grounding all F-35s worldwide last week over concerns of a suspect fuel tube in engines, the Joint Program Office said Monday that more than 80 percent of aircraft have been cleared to return to flight operations.
The Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office has worked with Pratt and Whitney, which makes the aircraft's F135 engine, and all military services to prioritize the fuel tube replacements in the days since the Oct. 11 grounding.
"Pratt and Whitney is rapidly procuring more parts to minimize the overall repair timeline for the remaining jets," JPO told UPI in a statement. "Current inventory will restore about half of the impacted jets to flight operations and the remaining aircraft are expected to be cleared for flight over the coming weeks."
While the Marine Corps continues to investigate the Sept. 28, the JPO said it moved quickly to correct the potential problem last week in order to guarantee the safety of operators even before the investigation is finished.
JPO ordered the inspection of all aircraft on Oct. 11, returning those with good tubes to service and replacing faulty tubes in others.
All U.S. services and international partners have resuming flying cleared aircraft -- about 80 percent of operational F-35s worldwide -- having undergone inspection for the fuel tube.
The replacement work has been prioritized using current spares inventory, with Pratt and Whitney procuring the rest that are needed. Current inventory will restore about half the impacted aircraft to operations immediately, with the rest expected to be cleared for flight within "the coming weeks."
"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents," JPO said, emphasizing that even with 1,500 suppliers on the F-35 program, "this is an isolated incident which is quickly being addressed and fixed."