F135 engine maker Pratt & Whitney yesterday released video of the first short takeoff and vertical landing test aircraft arriving at Patuxent River naval air base on November 15. The video shows Lockheed Martin test pilot Jon Beesley describing the event as a "quantum step" forward in the flight test program, promising a series of roughly 12 flights leading to a vertical landing would begin "essentially tomorrow".
One month later, BF-1 remains parked on the ground. Meanwhile, a Lockheed spokesman says, the vertical landing event has slipped from December to January. It was previously scheduled for last August, which itself was delayed from the original schedule.
Lockheed says the delay is due to a series of repairs. A fuel valve broke during the ferry flight. Replacing the part required removing the engine. Lockheed is using the opportunity to fix two other broken components -- an inlet rake to measure airspeed and an engine instrumentation module. Even so, Lockheed had said the aircraft would fly last week, but that did not happen. Lockheed now expects BF-1 to fly perhaps later this week.
Regardless of BF-1's flight test progress, the F-35 program will face a different kind of test tomorrow. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing on the findings on the F-35 Joint Estimating Team, which reportedly warned the program faces more delays and cost overruns.
It's also almost time to bid farewell to the AA-1 flight test aircraft, the non-weight-optimized design that has recorded 90 test sorties since debuting two years ago. Flight 91, scheduled later this week, will ferry AA-1 from Edwards AFB to China Lake, where it will be destroyed to complete live fire testing.