ANN REALTIME UPDATE
12.15.06 1555 EST: In this age of extensive computer
testing and modeling of aircraft designs, perhaps the first flights
of today don't carry quite the 'edge of your seat' suspense they
once did. Nevertheless, we're sure more than a few military
officials, government subcontractors, and employees with Lockheed
Martin were relieved to hear the words uttered about an hour ago by
company spokesman Tom Jurkowsky.
"Aircraft has landed safely," Jurkowsky noted Friday afternoon,
as the F-35 Lightning II completed its first 40 minute test
The example that took to the skies over North Texas was the
conventional version of the advanced, multirole fighter; a
short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant for operating off
small ships and near front-line combat zones, and a carrier variant
(CV) for catapult launches and arrested recoveries on board the US
Navy's large aircraft carriers, will also be produced.
"The Lightning II performed beautifully," said F-35 Chief Pilot
Jon Beesley following the flight. "What a great start for the
flight-test program, and a testimony to the people who have worked
so hard to make this happen."
The flight began at 12:44 pm CST when the jet lifted off and
began a climb-out to 15,000 feet. Beesley then performed a series
of maneuvers to test aircraft handling and the operation of the
engine and subsystems. He returned for a landing at 1:19 pm CST.
Two F-16s and an F/A-18 served as chase aircraft.
The $276.5 billion F-35 program is supported by nine nations,
including the United States.
1430 EST: Aero-News has confirmed earlier
News-Spy reports that about 45 minutes ago, the first
production-spec F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter took to the
skies over Fort Worth, TX.
WFAA-7 reports several hundred people turned out to witness the
aircraft takeoff from the Lockheed Martin facility. Accompanied by
two F-16s flying trail, the F-35's first flight is expected to last
about an hour.
Stay tuned to ANN for further updates.