THE highly-anticipated F-35 fighter jet will not be flying at this year's air tattoo in Fairford, it has been confirmed.
RIAT officials said that despite everyone’s best endeavours, it was decided that the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will not fly at RIAT 2014 as all of the aircraft currently remain grounded.
Air Tattoo chief executive Tim Prince said the decision was a great disappointment given the amount of planning that had gone into bringing the aircraft over to RIAT for its international debut.
The fighter jet has never once been seen outside the USA and had chosen RAF Fairford as its first visit.
“It’s not unusual for there to be delays in the development programme of any new military aircraft, and the Air Tattoo has been working closely with teams from Lockheed Martin, the US Marine Corps, Department of Defence and MoD to ensure the aircraft touched down at RAF Fairford for the Air Tattoo," said Tim Prince. "Unfortunately we’ve simply run out of time."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The safety of pilots and aircraft has to be our priority. Of course, it is disappointing that the Lightning II has not arrived in the UK in time for the Air Tattoo but we fully support the decision not to grant clearance for the aircraft to make their first transatlantic flight to the UK until the technical investigations following an engine failure are complete.”
Mr Prince added: “We fully understand and support the decision as safety of pilots and aircraft has to be paramount.
"Fortunately, the F-35B is only one of more than 200 exciting aircraft representing 33 air arms from 27 countries around the globe that will be taking part in RIAT 2014, which begins tomorrow.
"We are looking forward to staging the UK’s biggest celebrations marking the RAF Red Arrows 50th display season at the world’s largest military airshow."