Fylde firm's new fighter jet set to dazzle

The Lancashire born test pilot of Britain's newest fighter jet says the aircraft is set to impress on its first tour of the country.

Monday, 4th July 2016, 10:30 am
Updated Monday, 4th July 2016, 11:17 am
Arrival of F-35B at RAF Fairford. The first of Britains new supersonic stealth strike fighters has touched down in the UK for the first time. The F-35B Lightning II jet was flown by RAF pilot Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols on its first transatlantic crossing, accompanied by two United States Marine Corps F-35B aircraft from their training base at Beaufort, South Carolina. The combined US/UK team of aircrew and engineers are here in the UK to demonstrate just what the 5th generation state of the art aircraft can do, flying at the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough International Air Show over the next few weeks. The aircraft are due to enter service with the Royal Navy and RAF from 2018.

Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson has been flying the F35 Lightning since 2010, one of the select band of Brits chosen to test the fifth generation warplane assembled in the USA.

He is the lead pilot on the F-35 programme’s Short Take-Off Vertical Landing variant, which uses the aircraft’s hover technology which will operate from the UK’s new aircraft carriers.

Three of the F35Bs have flown into Britain for the first time to take part in the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough Air Show this month.

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Peter Wizzer Wilson. BAE System's F35B test pilot

Whalley-born Peter has flown the Harrier, the RAF and Royal Navy’s previous “jump jet” but says the F35 is light years ahead of the aircraft which performed so well in the Falklands war.

The former Fleet Air Arm pilot said: “The F35 is a joy to fly. I would compare it to an ultimate high performance car but one which is designed to be totally functional.

“The designers have taken a lot of trouble to make sure it is easy to fly. For example, if you want to slow right down from say 200 mph to hover in the air, you do that simply by pressing a button on the throttle.

“The Harrier could be quite a handful, very difficult, and it took a lot of training for the pilots.

Peter Wizzer Wilson. BAE System's F35B test pilot

“It was easy to make a mistake with a Harrier and that’s why there were a few crashes.”

But he said the F35’s computer software was so advanced that the controls were much less complicated.

“It allows the pilots to be tacticians. That is what you want. It allows them not to worry about operating the machine, but just to concentrate on the tactics their mission requires.”

He said the F35 as a 5th generation aircraft was a big advance on the 4th generation aircraft such as the F16, the Rafale, the Tornado and Typhoon.

He said its stealth capability meant that it could take out an opposition aircraft before the enemy even knew it was there.

And he said the public will be impressed when they see the F35 in action at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, on Friday and the Farnborough International Air Show the following week.

“It is going to be magnificent, a real pleasure for the British public to finally get their eyes on their new aircraft. We are used to seeing the Typhoon being thrown around in spectacular style at air shows, but the F35 has something the Typhoon does not, it can hover.

“It will be a bit like the Harrier used to . It is also incredibly loud compared to other aircraft.

“That gives an indication of this aircraft’s power. There’s lots of thrust, its a very fast aircraft and although it might not be able to show all of that in a display, people will hear it and can use their imaginations.

“The shape of the F35 is also amazing. It is designed that way as part of its stealth capabilities and it looks very futuristic.

“The families of all those in Lancashire who work on the F35 are going to be very excited to see it flying over her for the first time.”

“It is so important to Lancashire with BAE Systems two big sites at Samlesbury and Warton, so this should be really special.”

The rear fuselage of every F-35 Lightning II aircraft built are manufactured and assembled at BAE Systems facility in Samlesbury.

The site also manufactures horizontal and vertical tails for the stealthy jets, which are due to go in to service in the UK in 2018.

The UK will receive its first F-35 Lightning II aircraft in 2018 and the first jets will join 617 Squadron – famously known as the Dambusters squadron - which will operate out of RAF Marham in Norfolk.