WATCH: F-35B performs first ski-jump launch

Last year, the F-35B achieved its first launch from a ski-jump, let’s take a look at how that was done.

BAE test pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson had this to say:

“It’s always exciting when you get to do something in aviation for the first time. We spend literally years planning these ‘firsts’, with hundreds of hours in the simulator as the event gets close, but even with all the preparation the test team remains focussed on the potential that something unexpected might happen.

As is usually the case, the jet performed as expected and it was a real pleasure.I can’t wait until we’re conducting F-35 ski-jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers.

Friday’s F35B ski jump was a great success for the joint ski-jump team.

I’m exceptionally proud of this team. Their years of planning, collaboration and training have culminated in a fantastic achievement that advances the future capabilities of the aircraft and its integration into UK operations. As expected, aircraft BF-04 performed well and I can’t wait until we’re conducting F35 ski-jumps from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carriers.

Until then, the de-risking that we’re able to achieve now during phase I of our ski jump testing will equip us with valuable data we’ll use to fuel our phase II efforts.”

The F-35B is able to automatically position the control surfaces and nozzles for takeoff; a unique capability compared with previous STOVL aircraft.

This kind of automation reduces pilot workload and provides an added safety enhancement. The aircraft is also able to take-off at maximum weight from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier.

The ski-jump is key in enabling takeoffs with more weight and less speed than required for an unassisted horizontal launch aboard US aircraft carriers.

Squadron Leader Andy ‘Gary’ Edgell said:

“The performance of the jet has been great. As the pilot, I have to do very little to accomplish a perfect ski jump takeoff. I push the STOVL button to convert to Mode 4, push throttle to mil and use the pedals for minor directional inputs to remain on centerline.

As the jet travels up the ski jump it automatically makes the necessary adjustments to the nozzle and control surface deflections. With the F-35 automatically adjusting for the optimum takeoff, the pilot is free to adopt more of a supervisory role, monitoring for any off-nominal behavior and ready to immediately take full control, if necessary. Virtue of the superb F-35 STOVL handling qualities, the low pilot workload during launch and recovery from an aircraft carrier enables the pilot to focus more on the operational task at hand and less on the administrative aspects of the flight.”

The first F-35B ski-jump launch (shown in the video above) took place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland last June.

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