A milestone of sorts which shows that the F-35 continues to mature and, as pointed out by the growing sortie rate, is proving itself to be a very reliable aircraft:
US Marine Corps (USMC) Major Joseph Bachmann, a test pilot assigned to VMFAT-501, flew Eglin's 200th sortie on 24 August, 2012. Bachmann was instructing one the unit's transitioning pilots, USMC Major Mike Rountree-a highly experienced weapons school instructor. Rountree is converting over to the F-35B from the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II.
The F-35s at Eglin no longer require a chase plane, another indicator of reliability. And they're beginning to fly Block 1B software.
"The aircraft have matured dramatically since the early days," Bachmann says. "What we're seeing is just leaps and bounds of maturity here with the airplanes we have."
The aircraft are predictable and seem to be maintainable, "which is good for the sortie production rate," he adds. Rountree says that the 33rd Fighter Wing's maintainers have been gaining experience and learning how the F-35's systems behave, which has helped the unit increase its sortie generation rate.
Right now, the base has started to fly with enhanced Block 1B aircraft-which adds mostly improved software but also some hardware modifications. Block 1B aircraft are much more stable and predictable than Block 1A aircraft, Rountree says.
More good news as the F-35 continues to perform impressively and well ahead of schedule.