Another F-35 Incident at Eglin: Bird Strike Follows Nose Gear Mishap

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A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II takes off Feb. 27 to conduct sorties at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. over Eglin’s 724 square miles of land ranges and 120,000 miles of over water airspace. The F-35 is the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter providing unmatched capabilities to military forces around the world. (Kristin Stewart/U.S. Air Force)
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II takes off Feb. 27 to conduct sorties at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. over Eglin’s 724 square miles of land ranges and 120,000 miles of over water airspace. The F-35 is the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter providing unmatched capabilities to military forces around the world. (Kristin Stewart/U.S. Air Force)

While one F-35A stealth fighter at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, was experiencing a nose gear malfunction Wednesday, another F-35 experienced a bird strike, Air Force officials confirmed Thursday.

"A bird strike involving an F-35A Lightning II was identified upon completion of a training mission yesterday just after 12:00 p.m.," Airman First Class Daniella Pena-Pavao, spokeswoman at the 33rd Fighter Wing, told Military.com Thursday in a statement. The Northwest Florida Daily News first reported the incident.

"This incident was unrelated to the ground mishap involving another F-35A assigned here," Pena-Pavao said.

Following the strike, maintenance personnel conducted "a thorough inspection" and determined the aircraft sustained no damage," she said. The pilot was unharmed, officials said.

"Samples were collected during the inspection that will be sent to the Smithsonian to identify bird species and assist in migration pattern analysis. Bird strikes are a frequent occurrence in aviation," Pena-Pavao said.

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The popular but unaffiliated Facebook group Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco received reports on Wednesday from unnamed individuals who said an F-35 bird strike did occur at the base. The reports at the time remained unconfirmed.

Another F-35A experienced an unspecified in-flight emergency Wednesday at around 12:50 p.m.; upon its return back to base, it also suffered a ground mishap which caused its nose gear to collapse, officials from the 33rd Fighter Wing said in a release.

"One pilot was on board that aircraft, but did not sustain any injuries as a result of the mishaps," the Air Force said.

Fire crews "responded immediately," officials said on the 33rd's official Facebook page.

Lena Lopez, a spokeswoman for the 33rd Fighter Wing, told Military.com on Wednesday that an investigation into the nose gear incident "is just beginning."

Lopez did not specify a timeline when the Air Force may have an update into the incident. The Air Force did not specify the extent of the damage.

Eglin is home to one of the busiest F-35 training units in the Air Force; The 33rd Fighter Wing is also the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots.

The 33rd maintains 25 F-35As. The U.S. Navy, which also has a presence at Eglin and sends pilots through the training pipeline at the base, keeps 8 F-35Cs on station.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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