Two US Marines are training to be the first ‘Category One’ F-35B pilots, having had no experience flying other jet aircraft operationally.
Because the F-35B is a new aircraft in the, training on it is an experimental process. Training on the F-35 as a new pilot had never been done.
Capt. Taylor Zehrung and Capt. Robert Reddy are the first brand new pilots to finish training on the F-35B and go on to an operational squadron:
“We are considered new pilots in the Marine Corps. The other pilots qualified on the F-35B here all transitioned from other aircraft to the F-35. I came from my last school in Mississippi and came to Beaufort to learn how to fly the F-35. I have no previous experiences with the F-18’s or the AV-8B Harrier II.
We started in a real crawl, walk, run style. We started off with classroom instruction and a lot of simulator hours. We had to learn all of the systems that make up the aircraft and how to use and troubleshoot them. We did not start training in the F-35 until we completed between 30 to 40 hours in the simulator. It was around four months until we got into the F-35. The first thing we did in the F-35 was starting it up and taxing around the flight line, to get a feel for the aircraft. It was a lot like driving a car for the first time in a parking lot.”
Maj. Kyle Shoop, the executive officer of VMAT- 501 said:
“These pilots are now one of a kind. How they trained and the success in the MAG-wide exercise validates the syllabus and is a testament to pilots in the category one program.”