STOVL Airborne

BF-1, the first F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing test aircraft, took to the skies for the first time yesterday, logging a historic inaugural flight of 44 minutes, lead contractor Lockheed Martin announced June 11. The flight took place from Lockheed’s F-35 assembly facility in Fort Worth, Tex., with British test pilot Graham Tomlinson at the controls. He said the flight was “relaxed,” with BF-1 performing “just as we predicted” based on simulator testing and flights with AA-1, the first F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft, that already has 43 flights under its belt. Tomlinson guided BF-1 to 15,000 feet and performed a series of handling tests, engine-power variations, and subsystems checks. The aircraft’s propulsion operated only in conventional mode, as Lockheed Martin previously announced. BF-1 flights will evolve to include transitions to short takeoffs, hovers, and vertical landings beginning early next year. “This is truly an historic day for aviation and the JSF program,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, F-35 program executive officer.