Air Force F-35 makes first night flight - USN/USMC Already

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Unread post27 Mar 2014, 21:05

Air Force F-35 makes first night flight 26 Mar 2014 Brian Everstine

"Pilots in the Air Force’s newest and most expensive fighter can now fly at night.

An F-35A training pilot took off Monday at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for the Joint Strike Fighter’s first night training sortie. Previously, the service’s training syllabus explicitly prohibited the advanced stealthy fighter from flying at night or during adverse weather.

But this delay wasn’t due to a technical problem, it was due to different air worthiness standards in the various services flying the plane.

The Joint Strike Fighter is designed as a common fighter for all services. However, an issue arose with the symbols that the system’s pilot interface uses.

The Air Force believed it “didn’t have enough data to ensure the pilot-vehicle interface for night flying was good enough,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the joint F-35 program office executive officer, said Wednesday in response to questions from Air Force Times. “What I mean by that, is back in (training) the displays the pilots were looking at were confusing to Air Force pilots but not confusing to Navy and Marine Corps pilots because a lot of the symbology was of Navy origin.”

The confusion arose because the Air Force has a different air worthiness authority than the other services. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, handles the air worthiness standards for the service, while the Navy and Marine Corps use standards from Naval Air Systems Command.

Because the NAVAIR standards are used on the F-35’s night systems, the Air Force trained 15 pilots through simulators at Eglin and the F-35 plant in Fort Worth, Texas, until it was confident its pilots were ready to begin night flying at Eglin, Bogdan said.

The F-35 program as a whole was cleared for night flying in December, with Navy and Marine Corps pilots beginning sorties in January. It took until Monday for the Air Force to be ready to fly at night...."

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