By Staff Writer | July 1, 2008
With test pilot Graham Tomlinson at the controls, the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning 2 rose into blue Texas skies June 11, marking the first flight of an aircraft designed to provide a combination of capabilities never before available: stealth, supersonic speed and STOVL basing flexibility. Tomlinson, a former U.K. Royal Air Force Harrier pilot now employed by BAE Systems, performed a conventional takeoff at 1017 CDT from Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility. As planned, the company said, all initial F-35B flights will be made using conventional takeoffs and landings, with transitions to short takeoffs, hovers and vertical landings starting early next year. Tomlinson flew to 15,000 ft and performed a series of handling tests, engine-power variations and subsystems checks before landing at 1101 CDT.