US Marine Corps Col Arthur Tomassetti, 33rd Fighter Wing vice-commander, had his first local area F-35B flight scrubbed yesterday due to weather. Today, however, the weather was good and he managed to log 1.5 hours on the jet–which returned home with zero discrepancies.
USAF Photo by Major Karen Roganov–these are from yesterday’s attempt…
Most of the flight was out over the Gulf of Mexico and consisted of basic aircraft handling maneuvers such as turns, climbs, descents. But Tomassetti also did some formation flying with the two Boeing F/A-18s that are visiting from Marine Corps Reserve Squadron VMFA-112 based at Fort Worth, Texas. Returning to base, he did some touch and goes around the Eglin pattern.
As Tomassetti describes it, flying at Eglin without having to hit specific test points is far less stressful than a full-up test sortie would be at NAS Patuxent River or Edwards AFB.
Tomassetti says: “The difference between flying test flights in a test aircraft and flying the F-35B in Eglin airspace is not being under the continuous pressure of a test flight following very specific procedures. Today I really had the luxury of exploring the aircraft at my own pace, getting comfortable flying it around, and operating the displays. I was able to focus on what I wanted to focus on and my first time flying in the Eglin airspace.
I continue to be impressed how easy it is to fly the F-35 and how well it performs. For the last two years I only flew in the back seat of the F-16s at Eglin. Today’s flight is one of the first steps in building VMFAT-501′s capability to train F-35 pilots. I was happy to be able to contribute to that effort.”
Maintainers are also impressed with how well the F-35 doing given its immaturity. Right now, Eglin relies upon contractor maintenance support, but military crews are learning fast how to take care of the new jets.
“We were able to incorporate Lockheed Martin Contracted Logistics Support procedures accomplished with the Air Force F-35A to streamline operations for the first week of flying the F-35B variant,” says USMC Gunnery Sergeant Matthew Smith, a VMFAT-501 maintainer. “So we were scheduled to fly three days and the F-35B flew all three days on our first week of flying operations.”