Fears about a cancer-causing substance in the cockpit has prompted the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to suspend training flights for its 62-aircraft fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16I Sufas.
“According to tests the substance is formaldehyde that recently was defined as causing cancer above certain concentration,” says the IAF spokesman.
Formaldehyde is a known by-product of jet engine exhaust, but it’s not clear if the IDF detected uniquely high levels in the cockpit of the F-16I. By contrast, the IAF’s fleet of 125 F-16C/Ds remain fully operational.
Israeli sources say an IAF team is traveling on Sunday to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics headquarters at Fort Worth, Texas, to identify the source of the potentially cancerous substance.
The sources also indicate that the immediate source of the formaldehyde is probably the F-16I air conditioning system.
Lockheed Martin is “investigating some recent IAF pilot reports regarding the air quality in their F-16I aircraft and we are providing this support,” a company spokeswoman says. “We have not had similar reports by other F-16 users.”
There are 3,561 F-16s in active service with international air forces around the world, according to Flight’s Milicas database.