By Theo A. Katz
On Sept. 17, an F-35 fighter jet belonging to the United States Military (USM) went missing over Charleston, South Carolina after the pilot safely ejected via parachute.
With no radar track to predict the crash site of the plane, military officials sought the help of the public to locate the debris.
Over the past few days, many concerns were raised through social media and Congress, each one wondering the same thing: How does the USM lose a heavily advanced aircraft? While the investigation is still ongoing to find the cause of the ejection, Joint Base Charleston (JBC) issued a plea for help.
According to NYTimes.com, It was not immediately clear if anyone within the aircraft’s vicinity had been a witness. JBC released a phone number for members of the public to call with information about the lost plane.
On Thursday, the wreckage was found near Indiantown, South Carolina. Like any investigation, the public should avoid the debris area.
According to CNN.com, this is the third high-tech Marine Corps fighter jet crash in the past few weeks. On August 24, a Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet Fighter jet crashed near San Diego, killing the pilot. Then, a few days later over Australia, a Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey crashed during military exercises, leading to the deaths of three, and leaving five others in serious condition.
“As it has come clear that this aircraft has flaws, the military has issued a halt in flight operations,” said the acting commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric Smith. “This pause will be used to review safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance, and flight procedures, while also maintaining combat readiness.”
While this investigation involves a military aircraft, this pause in F-35 operations is not the only major aviation airliner exploration. In early 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a worldwide ground stop of the Boeing 737 Max after the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, according to CNET.com.
In the aviation industry, safety is the number one priority.
The F-35 originated from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina. As it was en route, witnesses couldn’t see or hear the plane come down. The questioning started once the pilot ejected while flying over North Charleston. During the investigation, officials looked in the vicinity of the plane’s last known position – Lake Moultrie, a lake north of Charleston and Lake Marion – South Carolina’s largest lake, according to NYTimes.com.
The investigation is still ongoing, but many questions remain to the Military and the public; specifically, what caused the pilot to eject?
The F-35B Lighting II is the most lethal and survivable aircraft in the world. In 2014, Lockheed Martin, the aircraft manufacturer, reached a $4 billion deal with the Pentagon to bring in a new fleet of F-35, according to USAToday.com.
Once the investigation is complete and more questions are answered, “This stand-down is being taken to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews,” said the Marine Corps.