The Start of the Mating Ritual

The first F-35 test aircraft, AA-1, successfully completed the inaugural stage of its airborne refueling tests March 12 during its 34th flight, prime contractor Lockheed Martin announced March 13. The airplane was aloft for one hour and 34 minutes near the company’s assembly plant in Fort Worth, Tex., and completed multiple tanker engagements with a specially instrumented KC-135 tanker that flew in from Edwards AFB, Calif. “The test team is completely satisfied we can maneuver in the vicinity of the KC-135, and the tanker boom can easily connect with the F-35,” said Doug Pearson, Lockheed Martin vice president of the F-35 Integrated Test Force. The tests will continue through March; next up is to transfer various amounts of fuel from the tanker to AA-1, the company said. Overall, Lockheed said program progress “remains strong” and the company is on track to deliver the first production aircraft in 2010.