2008-06-15 - F-35B first flightF-35B STOVL flies
Erstflug der F-35B in Fort Worth<br /> With test pilot Graham Tomlinson at the controls, the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II streaked into blue Texas skies Wednesday, marking the first flight of an aircraft that will provide a combination of capabilities never before available: stealth, supersonic speed and STOVL basing flexibility.
Tomlinson, a former Royal Air Force Harrier pilot now employed by BAE Systems, performed a conventional takeoff at 10:17 a.m. CDT from Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth facility. As planned, all initial F-35B flights will be made using conventional takeoffs and landings, with transitions to short takeoffs, hovers and vertical landings beginning early next year. Tomlinson guided the jet to 15,000 feet and performed a series of handling tests, engine-power variations and subsystems checks before landing at 11:01 a.m. CDT.
"A great team effort led to a relaxed first flight, with the aircraft handling and performing just as we predicted based on STOVL simulator testing and flying the F-35A," Tomlinson said. The F-35B, known as BF-1, becomes the second Lightning II to enter flight test, preceded by the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A, which first flew in December 2006 and has completed 43 flights. The F-35B that flew today is the second of 19 System Development and Demonstration aircraft and the first to incorporate new weight-saving design features that will apply to all future F-35 aircraft.
Though nearly identical in appearance to the F-35A, the F-35B incorporates a counter-rotating shaft-driven lift fan positioned directly behind the cockpit. The lift fan, produced by Rolls-Royce, is turned by a drive shaft from the F-35's massively powerful single engine, which features a swiveling rear exhaust nozzle that vectors thrust downward during vertical flight. The lift fan, engine and stabilizing roll ducts beneath the F-35B's wings combine to produce 40,000 pounds of lifting force. Converting the F-35B from STOVL to conventional flight and vice-versa requires only the push of a button by the pilot. The system otherwise operates automatically.