The previous installment of the F-35 Flight Test Update ended with the ferry of the first carrier variant, F-35C CF-1, to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on 6 November 2010. The F-35 Lightning II program completed 410 flights in 2010. As of mid-March 2011, 150 flights have been completed for the year to date. The program has completed a total of 697 flights since first flight in 2006.
The fourth production-representative conventional takeoff and landing variant, F-35A AF-4, was flown for the first time 30 December 2010. The aircraft was then ferried to Edwards AFB, California, on 22 January 2011. F35A AF-4 is the fifth (including AA-1, the first F-35) to be ferried to Edwards for testing. The first production aircraft, F-35A AF-6, completed its inaugural flight on 25 February. It will continue flight tests in Fort Worth, Texas, before it is accepted by the US Air Force. The aircraft will then head to Edwards AFB to support developmental testing.
F-35B BF-2, the second short takeoff/vertical landing aircraft, made its first vertical landing on 6 January. F-35B BF-5 was flown for the first time on 27 January and is the last STOVL assigned to developmental flight testing. As of mid-March, the five F-35Bs flying at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, have completed a total of 316 flights and seventy-three vertical landings.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Al Norman was named chief test pilot for the F-35 program at the end of February. Norman has more than 6,000 hours of flight time in more than seventy different types of aircraft.
The F-35 Lightning II program completed its 500th flight when short takeoff/vertical landing variant F-35B BF-4 took off from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, on a three-hour test mission to evaluate avionics software. USMC Lt. Col. Matt Kelly was the test pilot for the flight.
The third F-35A to join the test fleet at Edwards AFB, California, topped off its fuel tanks while cruising west from Fort Worth, Texas. Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti flew the conventional takeoff and landing variant, called AF-3, on the 1,200-mile ferry flight.
The fourth conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, F-35A AF-4, completed its first flight piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti at NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas. AF-4 is the tenth F-35 to fly and the third test aircraft to fly with the full avionics system that will be installed on all operational F-35s. This flight was the final test mission of 2010.
F-35B BF-2 made its first vertical landing at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, piloted by Lt. Col. Fred Schenk of the US Marine Corps. This flight marked the seventy-ninth flight for BF-2.
Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson, flying F-35B BF-4, took the first synthetic aperture radar, or SAR, maps for an F-35. SAR is a method of ground mapping that uses computer processing to improve radar function. SAR data yields high-resolution, photo-quality images that function as the heart of the F-35 navigation capability.
F-35 chief test pilot Jon Beesley made a vertical landing in the second F-35B, BF-2, marking the first vertical landing achieved by a non-Harrier-trained pilot. The flight, the eighty-fifth for BF-2, involved four sorties that consisted of one conventional takeoff, three short takeoffs, four hovers, one vertical landing, and three slow landings.
F-35A AF-4 arrived at Edwards AFB, California, after a 3.2-hour ferry flight from Fort Worth, Texas, piloted by US Air Force Maj. Matt Hayden. The aircraft is the fifth F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft to be ferried to Edwards for testing. The ferry flight was the fifth flight for AF-4.
The last F-35B Lightning II assigned to developmental flight testing, BF-5, took off from NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas, piloted by Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti. The aircraft will be ferried to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, later this year where it will join the other F-35Bs and one F-35C currently undergoing testing.
US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eric Buus completed his first flight in an F-35 and became the first active duty US Naval Aviator to fly the aircraft. Buus piloted the seventy-seventh flight of F-35B BF-3. The 1.2-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, included flying quality and propulsion transient tests. Buus is the sixteenth pilot to fly the F-35.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Mark Ward became the seventeenth pilot to fly the F-35 when he took off from Edwards AFB, California, for the eighty-sixth flight of AF-2. The 1.6-hour mission included testing flying qualities, engine transients, and multiple landings.
US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eric Buus became the first active duty Navy pilot to fly the carrier variant of the F-35. The 2.1-hour mission was the thirty-second flight for CF-1, the first F-35C test aircraft. “The in-air handling qualities of the F-35C are excellent. They are also very similar to the B variant. I immediately felt right at home in the aircraft,” said Buus. “The Navy should be excited about having an aircraft that will be able to launch from our carriers with enough internal fuel and weapons to project power where we need to while having the stealth characteristics to go in and out of harm’s way unseen. This aircraft will be a great leap in technology and capability for the future of Naval Aviation.”
BAE test pilot Peter Wilson made the longest hover during the ninety-fourth flight of F-35B BF-1. On the final vertical landing, Wilson spent more than five minutes in hover, with almost six minutes elapsing from entering the hover to touching down. The flight consisted of three other vertical landings, five short takeoffs, and one slow landing.
Veteran Lockheed Martin experimental test pilot Al Norman was named chief test pilot for the F-35 program. Norman replaced former F-35 chief test pilot Jon Beesley, who retired 31 January 2011. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin in 1999, Norman served in the US Air Force for twenty-three years as a fighter pilot and a test pilot. After leaving active duty, he became an experimental test pilot for Lockheed Martin on the F-22 program at Edwards AFB, California. Norman has more than 6,000 hours of flying time in more than seventy aircraft types.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti took F-35A AF-6 on its inaugural flight from NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas. AF-6 is the first production model of the F-35. During the one-hour flight, Gigliotti put the aircraft through basic flight maneuvers and engine tests. AF-6 will continue flight tests in Fort Worth through March before it is accepted by the US Air Force. The aircraft will then head to Edwards AFB, California, to support developmental testing shortly after the US Air Force takes delivery.
Lockheed Martin test pilot David Nelson was at the controls as BF-2 completed its 100th flight. The second short takeoff/vertical landing F-35B is the first F-35 to reach this milestone. The 1.1-hour flight from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, included three takeoffs and landings that involved three short takeoffs, two slow landings, and one vertical landing. BF-2 has now accumulated more than 130 flight hours.
US Air Force Lt. Col. Leonard Kearl became the eighteenth pilot to fly the F-35. Kearl is the operations officer of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, California. The 1.7-hour flight was the tenth for F-35A AF-4. Kearl is the sixth F-35 test pilot flying at Edwards.
US Air Force Lt. Col. Leonard Kearl made the 100th flight of AF-1 at Edwards AFB, California. The 1.3-hour mission of this F-35A included testing weapon bay door flying qualities and conducting 360-degree rolls at various speeds and altitudes. The flight also explored inverted test points at negative g’s to evaluate the fuel system. AF-1 has logged 178 total flight hours in its first 100 flights.
The second production aircraft, F-35A AF-7, completed its inaugural flight from NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas, with Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti at the controls. The conventional takeoff and landing aircraft was flown for 1.3 hours. AF-7 is the second and final aircraft from Low-Rate Initial Production, or LRIP, Lot 1.
The F-35C broke the sound barrier for the first time when it achieved Mach 1.02 at 30,000 feet while on a mission from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The flight evaluated the aircraft’s ability to handle structural loads while performing different maneuvers at different speeds.
Lockheed Martin test pilot Dan Canin became the nineteenth pilot to fly the F-35 when he piloted F-35C CF-1 from NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. This flight was the thirty-ninth flight for CF-1.
BAE test pilot Peter Wilson made the 100th flight of F-35B BF-1 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. The 0.7-hour mission included one sortie, one short takeoff, and one vertical landing.
The F-35 System Development and Demonstration flight test program reached 1,000 cumulative flight hours. The total was surpassed during a formation flight with AF-1 and AF-4 at Edwards AFB, California.