The real F-35 may not be flying at Farnborough Airshow, but at least pilots get some practice in thanks to aerospace engineers at Warton.
A multi-million pound simulator facility at the Fylde aircraft factory is allowing pilots to practise flying the next generation warplane from the decks of the still to be finished aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth.
The jet has a short or vertical take-off capability, which makes it ideal for the short runways of ships, and is seen as the replacement for the famous Harrier jump jets.
It is expected that up to 48 of the aircraft could be ordered to fly from the Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship, the Prince of Wales, in 2020.
Test pilot Pete Kosogorin, who lives in Lytham, says the simulator technology based at Warton is playing a critical role in making sure that when the aircraft are delivered to the carrier the pilots are wellprepared for action.
He said: “What we have done in the simulator at Warton has been incredibly important because the results of those trials has fed into the design of the deck, the lighting on the deck and the systems.
“There are various shipborne systems that help the pilot when landing, particularly in high seas, when the conditions are challenging and the deck is moving around quite a bit, or at night when there is limited visibility.
“But the simulator work isn’t just about developing the flight control software in the aircraft, it is also about finding out how to fly and carry out certain manoeuvres and working out various flying techniques.
“We’ve brought together a cross-section of individuals to do that, from very experienced Harrier pilots to US Navy F18 pilots and also Royal Navy and Airforce pilots with no short take-off experience to ensure the aircraft is optimised for all levels of ability.”
The F-35 rear fuselage and tail section is built by BAE at Samlesbury. BAE also supplies the carrier wing tips and nozzle bay doors for the short take-off variants, plus various vehicle and mission systems.
This week, hopes were rising that the aircraft might make a flying appearance at the airshow – the biggest in the UK and vital for securing overseas orders for aircraft.
However the jet, grounded since one US aircraft suffered an engine fire, remains unable to fly across the Atlantic, having been refused permission by the Pentagon.
Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “While we’re disappointed that we’re not going to be able to participate in the air show, we remain fully committed to the programme itself and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and to partners.”