February 25, 2011 (by Bjørnar Bolsøy) - The first production F-35 made its inaugural flight on Friday marking another milestone for the F-35 program.
The first production model of the F-35 Lightning II, AF-06, #07-0744, completed its inaugural flight on February 25th, 2011 from NAS Fort Worth with Lockheed Martin test pilot Bill Gigliotti at the controls. During the one-hour flight, the aircraft underwent basic flight manoeuvring and engine tests. [Lockheed Martin photo by David Drais]
The hour long flight at Lockheed Martin's Forth Worth facilities included basic flight maneuvering and engine tests. Pilot for the afternoon sortie, company test pilot Bill Gigliotti, was pleased with the jet's performance.
"The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight," said Gigliotti. "The Air Force is getting a great jet that represents a huge leap in capability, and we’re looking forward to getting it into the hands of the service pilots in just a few more weeks."
AF-6, as the jet is called, is the first of two F-35A air force jets from the LRIP
1 production lot funded in 2007. Earlier jets delivered by the program have been development aircraft.
Previously, AF-6 was to be delivered to the 58th FS
at Eglin AFB
last fall. Instead it will transfer to Edwards AFB in a month's time to support development testing. Last year's restructuring of the F-35 program diverted three production jets destined for operational testing in an effort to speed up the development phase. The three jets will effectively be on loan to the development test program. Consequently delivery of AF-6, which has received the serial number #07-0744
, was delayed as the jet was refitted with instrumentation equipment in order to conduct flight testing.
2011 will also see the first production deliveries of the U.S. Marine Corps variant F-35B STOVL
. The U.S. Navy will have to wait until 2012 for their first production F-35C carrier jet.
In all seventeen F-35s have been delivered since December 2006. More than 650 flights have been completed in addition to extensive ground testing.