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F-35 Lightning II News

First US Marine pilots F-35

March 19, 2009 (by John R. Kent) - Maj. Joseph T. "O.D." Bachmann today became the first U.S. Marine Corps pilot to fly the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, logging the flight-test program’s 90th mission.

USMC pilot Maj. Joseph T. Bachmann became the first Marine to fly the F-35 Lightning II on March 19th, 2009. [LMTAS photo by Tom Harvey]

He is the fifth pilot to fly the stealthy, multi-role fighter.

Bachmann departed the runway at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant at 11:29 a.m. CDT and flew the aircraft to 15,000 feet, checking handling qualities and engine response before landing one hour and 15 minutes later.

"The plane performed wonderfully," said Bachmann, a member of the F-35 Integrated Test Force and one of the team test pilots who will fly the F-35B Lightning II at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., test site, beginning this summer. "The U.S. Marine Corps will be getting an aircraft with extraordinary capabilities that is very easy to fly. Today is another step toward delivery of the first jets to Marines on the front line."

Bachmann’s first flight was in F-35 AA-1, a conventional takeoff and landing variant with controls and flying qualities essentially identical to the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B. The F-35B will replace Marine Corps AV-8B STOVL fighters and F/A-18 strike fighters. It will be the Marines’ primary fighter, and will provide a unique combination of capabilities: stealth, supersonic speed, STOVL basing flexibility and network-enabled mission systems.

Bachmann is the second active-duty service member to fly the F-35. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. James "Flipper" Kromberg first piloted the Lightning II on Jan. 30, 2008. Bachmann has more than 2,000 hours of flight time in more than 30 different types of aircraft and is currently qualified in the F/A-18 A-F.

During his military career, Bachmann made two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom – one from the "Harrier Carrier," USS Bataan, and the other land-based at Al Asad, Iraq. During flight operations in Iraq, Bachmann earned four Air Medals and a Navy Commendation with a Combat V.

Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Additional images:

USMC pilot Maj. Joseph T. Bachmann at the controls, the F-35 Lightning II lifts off from the runway at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth on March 19th, 2009. Bachmann became the first Marine to fly the F-35, which will enter operational service with the Corps in 2012. [LMTAS photo by John Wilson]