Fix for F-35 ejection seat problems could take another year

The head of the F-35 program office said Wednesday that the military is working on two solutions to allow lightweight pilots to safely eject from the joint strike fighter, though those fixes are about a year away.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, program executive officer for the F-35 program, told members of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces that the military is redesigning helmets to be lighter and adding a switch to set the ejection mechanism for a lighter pilot.

This year, the Defense Department discovered that the ejection seat could give fatal whiplash to pilots weighing less than 136 pounds, even though the seat was supposed to be designed to accommodate pilots weighing 103 to 245 pounds. As a result, lighter pilots are prohibited from flying until problems are fixed.

"This is supposed to be life-saving, not life-threatening," said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and chairman of the subcommittee.

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Bogdan said the developers have found three problems with the ejection seat, all of which have proposed solutions.

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