Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Air National Guard pilot flies F-35

Of course it was a familiarization flight, but still, the pilot gave the aircraft high marks:

"It was a very easy aircraft to fly," said Air Guard Maj. Jay Spohn in a phone call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. "There were no surprises, there were no malfunctions."

Spohn went on to say:

"The F-35 is at this point really in the crawl stage where guys are just learning how to fly the airplane," he said.

Says the reporter:

Indeed, test pilots are still methodically working out the aircraft's flight envelope even as production planes are already being delivered – an overlap the F-35 program manager. Vice Adm. David Venlet, has called a "miscalculation."

The reporter then goes on to report later in the story:

And Spohn applauded the digital training he'd been given before the actual flight. "The aircraft flies just like the simulator, which is a good thing," he said. Thanks to that training, he said, "I felt more comfortable on my very first flight in the F-35 than I did two years ago on my first flight in the F-15 or ten years ago in my first flight in the A-10."

That all is a result of what the Admiral calls a “miscalculation” (i.e. “concurrency”).  Yet there is proof positive of its worth.

And another important point was made in the article.  The F-35 is touted as an aircraft that is easier to maintain.  Said one of those being trained to maintain the F-35, it is easier:

The chief of Spohn's ground crew also said the digital systems make the plane easier to manage. "It's a lot simpler than the F-15C, which is what I came off," said Master Sergeant Brian Rowlands. For example, Rowland said, one set of test equipment for the F-15C involves four 50-pound boxes of gear; the equivalent for the F-35 is one 30-lb box, he said, "and the test can be done in half the time."

Again proving that what has been claimed for the F-35 seems to be true.

Finally, speaking of the cockpit and helmet:

"Some of the new 'glass' [i.e. instrumentation] in the F-35 is easier to use and presents you more situational awareness," he told reporters. "The biggest thing that jumps out at you is their remarkable lack of switches compared to the previous generation of aircraft, and those two big touchscreens [instead]," he said. "Ergonomically it's quite a bit different."

Spohn also flew wearing the high-tech helmet developed by Vision Systems International (VSI), which is being reworked for jitter in the images it displays. "There has been talk of issues, but I didn't have any issues," he said – although he was not using feeds from all the aircraft's sophisticated sensors.

All in all a very positive review from an old F-15 pilot.


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