Moving Right Along

Speaking with reporters at AFA’s Air and Space conference Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Charles Davis said he’s confident that the first F-35 Lightning II test flight will be off the ground before the year is out. The new F-35 program manager indicated that the aircraft just ran a full afterburner engine test in Dallas this week, which he said helped give him a better idea as to what can be accomplished in the near term. Testing crews cranked up the aircraft’s integrated power package to run on afterburner within 11 days, a bit of a milestone for a fifth generation fighter, said Davis, adding that crews have learned a lot about the aircraft the more they work with it. “You don’t want to fly it just to make a date,” Davis said of the first flight—which was pushed back a few months from earlier this year. “I’m sure the [ground crews] could say they could do it in November, but we’re tempering their enthusiasm a bit,” Davis quipped, noting that he’s expecting the fighter to lift off by the end of November or the beginning of December at the latest.