$130 Million Solo


By lex, on February 7th, 2011

Here’s a nice little article * about the first Navy pilot to fly the F-35B STOVL variant destined for use by the Marine Corps:

After hours in the simulator and performing ground tests, Lt. Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus took off in the fighter’s jump-jet variant, intended for the Marine Corps’ use, on Thursday from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

The Navy will fly the F-35C variant, intended for carrier landings.

“It’s a testament to the designers and engineers that this airplane flies so well,” Buus said in the news release. “I’m looking forward to getting a few more hours, helping the team knock out test points, and delivering this airplane to the war fighters. I think the fleet is going to love this airplane.”

Embedded in the story was something that came to me as a bit of a surprise: All F-35 transition pilots are going to go solo on their first flight, after a no-doubt exhaustive simulator indoctrination.

Unlike the FA-18, Navy isn’t buying any two-seat trainers.

I well remember my first solo in an FA-18A. It was a kick to look back and see not just an empty back seat – as I had done in T-34s, T-2s and TA-4Js – but no back seat (multi-seat transition pilots naturally had an instructor RIO or bombardier/navigator along for the ride).

I’m not sure how they did it in A-7s, but from a purely performance standpoint, the A-7 wasn’t much of a step up from the A-4, I don’t think. The FA-18 was, and I’m sure the F-35 will be, quite a step up from even advanced jet trainers. And while simulators are well and good, there’s nothing to replace the actual feeling of flight – perhaps especially in a STOVL aircraft.

And if I recall correctly, my first Hornet solo was after five familiarization flights with an instructor in the back seat, and we would receive dual instruction at most new phases; instruments, formation, low level navigation, strike and basic fighter maneuvers/air combat maneuvering.

Farewell to all that, I guess.

* 10-17-2018 Link Gone; no replacements found – Ed.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Flying, Naval Aviation

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