The US Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing - the school house for the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter - is about to graduate its first non-cadre student F-35 pilot.

Marine Lt Col Roger Hardy should be completing his final qualification sortie on the F-35 at Eglin AFB in Florida today, says Marine Col Arthur Tomassetti, the vice-commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing. Once he is qualified, Hardy will be the first non-test pilot, non-initial cadre pilot to qualify in for the fifth generation fighter.

Although Hardy is the first true student to pass though the F-35 transition course - which lasts for six flights - he is a highly experienced fighter pilot.

After he is qualified, he will practise in Eglin's simulator for two rides before heading to Lockheed's plant at Fort Worth, Texas. There he will assume his role as the Defense Contract Management Agency's first F-35 acceptance pilot.

Hardy's job will be to ensure every F-35 coming off the production line meets its specifications in the air.

Source: Flight Daily News