The Joint Strike Fighter programme's first short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft is expected to perform more engine runs in mid-May, ahead of undergoing hover pit trials at idle power and making a flight debut in late May or early June, says Lockheed Martin's F-35 chief test pilot Jon Beesley.

F-35B development aircraft BF-1 (below) will operate in conventional take-off and landing mode until starting STOVL activities late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of next year.

"Everything would indicate that the programme should go very well," says Beesley. "I don't think any of the surprises are going to be such that they won't be easily overcome."

F-35B BF-1 painted
© Team JSF

CTOL aircraft AA-1 should also perform its 41st test flight in late May, with its work for the remainder of this year to focus on activities including air start testing, supersonic flight and weapons-bay door opening, says Beesley.

Source: Flight International