British Pilots Begin F-35 Training at Eglin

Britain’s first two operational F-35 pilots have begun flight training at the strike fighter’s schoolhouse at Eglin AFB, Fla., reports Florida’s Crestview News Bulletin. “It’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” stated Royal Air Force squadron leader Franki Buchler in the newspaper’s Nov. 23 report. Buchler and Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. Ian Tidball represent both British services that will eventually operate the F-35. Since the United Kingdom opted to purchase the F-35B short-takeoff and vertical-landing variant, just like the US Marine Corps, the two British pilots, along with 12 maintainers and two supervisors, are embedded with the marines’ training presence at Eglin. Two British F-35Bs are already stationed at Eglin, augmenting the marines’ training fleet there, according to the newspaper. Once their F-35 initial flight training at Eglin is complete, the two pilots are slated to join a British F-35 test force at Edwards AFB, Calif., to prepare the F-35B for entry into British service. (See also First International F-35 Delivered.)