Pilots and maintainers at the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, are making good progress with the training pipeline for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. USAF Photo-Toth's first F-35 take-off
33rd FW commander Col Andrew Toth, an F-15C Weapons School grad and former commander of the elite 57th Adversary Tactics Group at Nellis AFB, Nevada, recently had his first flight in the F-35A on 8 August. Having countless hours in the Boeing F-15C Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon (or Viper), Toth shares his impressions of that first ride:
Getting to fly the F-35 for the first time was quite an experience, the aircraft was easy to fly and felt very solid. In my opinion, the aircraft flies like a cross between an Eagle and a Viper on steroids. Even with our current operating limits, it was smooth and quiet with differing airspeed when straight and level like a Viper. At the same time, the jet talks to you when you increase the angle of attack on it like an Eagle as you get a light buffet when flying at 12 units AOA. There is no doubt, as this aircraft matures and all of the systems become fully integrated, that it is the future of combat capability for our services and partner nations.
The HMD [helmet-mounted display] worked well and was a great cross reference for approaches and landings as the velocity vector was accurate and the aircraft touches down smoothly. There is nobody watching over your shoulder in the back seat, because there isn't one, for the first time when you land. That being said, the aircraft gives you a great sight picture and is also easy to land--almost didn't realize I had landed on my first touch and go. Additionally, when the power is pushed up the response time from the Pratt and Whitney F135 motor was immediate and the near 40,000lbs thrust was evident providing a slight rumble in the seat throughout the sortie.
The entire team here at Eglin and the 33 FW has come together over the past year to bring us to the point where we are executing multiple F-35A and B sorties on a daily basis and our operations will continue to grow over time.
To think our very first sortie flown here at Eglin was only a few months ago, on 6 March, and now we have over 110 hours flown in the F-35A and over 80 in the F-35B is quite an accomplishment. I am extremely proud of all of our Sailors, Marines, Airmen, contractors and Civilians that have brought this together and I am looking forward to my next sortie.