Thursday, June 12, 2008

The First Flight of the F-35B

Back before I was born, these type of events happened every few months...for a lover of aviation that must have been an interesting (yet dangerous) time.

From Aerospace Daily comes this:

Lockheed Martin has flown the first short-take-off-and- vertical-landing (STOVL) F-35B, in conventional-take-off (CTOL) mode, clearing the way for funding to be released for production of the first six U.S. Marine Corps aircraft.

The 44-minute flight of aircraft BF-1, the first production-representive F-35, from Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant also marked the start of a five-year, 5,000-plus test program involving three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter: the CTOL F-35A, STOVL F-35B and aircraft carrier-capable F-35C.

F-35B lead test pilot Graham Tomlinson, from JSF industrial partner BAE Systems, says the first flight went “absolutely to plan.” Flight-testing is beginning in CTOL mode, with STOVL testing now scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2009.

The aircraft was flown with gear down at speeds up to 230 knots and 15,000 feet altitude to assess handling qualities. The gear will be retracted on the second flight. Tomlinson says BF-1 flies “very similarly” to aircraft AA-1, the first F-35, with some enhancing features, including dual nose-gear doors to improve directional stability and improved flight control on touchdown. “The aircraft lands itself,” he says.

First flight of BF-1 is one of two milestones required for the award of a $1.3 billion contract for the first six low-rate-initial-production F-35Bs. Marine Brig. Gen. David Heinz, deputy head of the Joint Strike Fighter program office, says the contract should be awarded after Pentagon acquisition chief John Young has been briefed on resolution of blade-failure issues with the STOVL version of Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine.

Despite the engine problems, the first flight was within weeks of the late May date committed to in August 2006, Heinz says. Although a delay of 30 to 60 days had been predicted after turbine blade failures in two STOVL F135s during ground testing in 2007, “we came in two weeks in front of that,” he says.

For the rest please go HERE

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