First Navy Pilot Flies Carrier Variant of Lockheed Martin F-35


On February 11, 2011 the carrier variant of the F-35 (CF-1) flew for the first time with a Navy test pilot at the controls. The F-35C will operate from the U.S. Navy's large aircraft carriers by way of catapult launch and arrested landing. The United Kingdom's Royal Navy and Royal Air Force also will employ the F-35C.

Taking off at 2:06 pm, Lt Cmdr. Eric “Magic” Buus flew the F-35C for 2.1 hours. This was the 32nd flight for CF-1, the first F-35C test aircraft. Buus’ first flight in CF-1 checked the function of the flutter excitation system, which will help measure structural loads of the airframe during various flight maneuvers.

Lt. Cmdr. Buus has now flown both F-35 sea-service variants. On Feb. 3, he became the first Navy pilot to fly the short takeoff/vertical landing F-35B, to be operated by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Italian Air Force and Navy.

“The aircraft flew great for more than two hours with no issues. It’s a really smooth, solid flying airplane and a joy to fly,” said Buus. “This flight was a great milestone for me, personally, and more importantly, for the Services during the 100 year anniversary of Naval Aviation. This airplane is going to give us a great leap in capability, and I’m looking forward to putting it through the demanding carrier suitability tests required to ensure it’s ready for the Fleet,” he said.

“Magic's flight today is a tremendous accomplishment for him and the test team, and a historic event for Naval aviation,” said Capt. Thomas Huff, commodore of Naval Test Wing Atlantic. “The determination and thoroughness of test professionals across all our programs is shaped by the education and training they receive at the United States Naval Test Pilot School and Test and Evaluation University, ensuring delivery of warfighting capability to Sailors and Marines,” said Huff.

Coincidentally timed with the kickoff of the Centennial of Naval Aviation in San Diego, Calif., this milestone represents the Navy’s first hands-on experience in its future fighter aircraft with stealth capabilities.

The F-35C is scheduled to begin land-based catapult launches and arrested recoveries later this year, with ship-board test flights beginning in 2013. The F-35B will begin test operations from U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault ships this fall.

F-35s have completed a total of 624 test flights, including 78 flights in 2011. The F-35B has completed 32 vertical landings, including 22 in 2011