According to the UK media outlet The Sun, the recent crash of a British F-35B during take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth was caused by a rain cover not removed before take off.
An F-35B Lightning aircraft belonging to the RAF 617 Squadron crashed in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after launching from the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on Nov. 17, 2021. The aircraft was one of the eight British F-35Bs and ten U.S. Marine Corps F-35s currently embarked HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden operational cruise (dubbed CSG-21). The pilot, ejected from the stealth jet was rescued and returned to the ship.
In the aftermath of the mishap, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, as quoted by BBC’s Defence Correspondent Jonathan Beale, provided some further details, saying that the F-35 ditched soon after taking off from the aircraft carrier and that operational and training flights onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth were continuing despite the incident (a sign that the root cause of the crash was probably immediately known and, importantly, not pointing to a technical glitch/failure).
Indeed, the flying activity was not halted and the F-35Bs, including those of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Italian Air Force and Navy could take part in a joint exercise off the coast of Italy that included cross deck operations.
Dealing with what caused the F-35B crash, the British media outlet The Sun reports that it may have been a “cheap plastic cover” that was left on during take-off.
In an exclusive story titled ‘”Flop Gun!” £100million Royal Navy fighter jet crashed ‘because cheap plastic rain cover was left on during take-off’ Jerome Starkey wrote on Nov. 23:
Sailors saw a red cover floating in the sea after the stealth jet splashed into the Mediterranean.
A source said: “They knew almost right away.
“The covers and engine blanks are supposed to be removed before flight.
“The ground crew do it and they are incredibly strict.
“Then the pilot walks round.”
The Navy pilot tried to abort take-off but ran out of runway so had to eject.
If confirmed, the crash of the F-35B would have been caused by a catastrophic chain of failures (by more than one person) in following the standard taxi and take off procedures, that will certainly include multiple visual checks of the actual removal of the air intake covers and safety pins (which are in red color and have the usual “Remove Before Flight” sign to attract the attention and prevent this kind of incidents).
Anyway, let’s wait for the official investigation to provide more confirmed details about the incident and its root cause(s).
Meanwhile the recovery operation of the ditched F-35B is still ongoing. The wreckage needs to be found and all pieces recovered to prevent foreign nations from putting their hands on pieces of the jet’s low observable skin and sensor technology.
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.