Luke Air Force Base grounds F-35s after pilots complain of dizziness in air

Jun 9, 2017, 11:16 AM | Updated: 8:25 pm
(U.S. Air Force Photo)...
(U.S. Air Force Photo)
(U.S. Air Force Photo)

PHOENIX — Luke Air Force Base in Arizona has grounded its F-35s jets after a handful of pilots reported suffering dizzy spells while flying.

A spokeswoman for the base said five incidents since May 2 called a halt to further flights.

Maj. Rebecca Heyse Chief of Public Affairs for the 56th Fighter Wing said pilots had “experienced hypoxia-like symptoms … so that’s why we’re taking (Friday) to cancel flying operations.”

Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the body. Symptoms include confusion, elevated heart rate and shortness of breath.
So far, only pilots at Luke have been affected.

The base near Glendale is working with aerospace company Lockheed to discover the cause.

In a story published on the U.S. Air Force website, the 56th Operations Group planned to meet with all its pilots to answer any questions about the problem.

Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said in each case, the airplane’s backup oxygen system worked as designed and the pilot was able to land the plane safely.

“The Air Force takes these physiological incidents seriously, and our focus is on the safety and well-being of our pilots,” said Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke.

Flights should resume Monday at the earliest. The base does not schedule flights on weekends.

Pilots have been training in the F-35 program at Luke since 2015.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Luke Air Force Base grounds F-35s after pilots complain of dizziness in air