Mystery object ejected on F-35 takeoff test solved

If you blink you’ll miss it, but it’s clearly there. In a flash between the :12 and :13-second mark on the video below, a large black object is observed ejecting forcefully in the opposite direction of the F-35B during the first short takeoff attempt at NAS Patuxent River on March 17.

Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 flight test manager, saw the mystery object. His first thought: “Oh my gosh, what came off my airplane?!”



The mystery ejection, preserved on video posted on YouTube by Aviation Week technology editor Graham Warwick, was quickly solved on inspection of said object by Pearson’s staff.

The force of the F-35B’s vectored exhaust nozzle had ejected a rubber grommet placed around a runway light. The grommet had survived multiple takeoffs and landings by other jets at Pax over the years, but succumbed to its first encounter with the F-35Bs vectored thrust on short takeoff.

But there is a simple explanation, Pearson says. Such grommets are not glued or attached to the runway, but simply placed around the lighting fixture, he says. NAS Patuxent River has made changes.  

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6 Responses to Mystery object ejected on F-35 takeoff test solved

  1. Lalaland 23 June, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Wasn’t there a study on the need for runway hardening for the F-35B? This video would seem to suggest that FOD is an even bigger risk to other aircraft still on the taxiway when an F-35B is taking off with vectored thrust. Still the fix here seemed simple but it would suggest a bit of potential inflexibility from semi-prepared strips (is the F-35B meant to use those?).

  2. aeroxavier 23 June, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    for me that was asphalt who was be ejected by the hot temp of the reactor

  3. sferrin 23 June, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    Lalaland: Mountain out of a mole hill. Go lay a rubber doughnut on a runway near an F-15 doing a short takeoff and it’ll do the same thing. Not sure why you think it “suggests” anything at all about “potential inflexibility”.

  4. Lalaland 23 June, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    But that’s the point it was laying where it always does and did survive other aircraft taking off without being disturbed. As you say though it’s a molehill on the face of it.

    If more things than usual are kicked up by takeoffs then you have to work harder to prep the field, after all the base FOD team didn’t regard this grommet as an issue before now. The report I refer to was posted on Ares a while back (About That Austere-Base Thing…)

  5. Weaponhead 24 June, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    http://www.insidedefense.com/secure/defense_docnum.asp?f=defense_2002.ask&docnum=6232010_june23d

    DOD, Lockheed Agree On Redesign Of JSF Drive Shaft Critical To Marine Corps Plans

    You sure it wasn’t the clutch (see link above)?

    Well maybe not this time…

  6. pozycjonowanie 28 June, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Nice site and great text.

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