10/31/2011 In a discussion with reporters aboard the USS Wasp during F-35B shipboard trials. we caught up again with test pilot of the year “Squirt” Kelly. As readers of SLD know, we have discussed the F-35 on previous visits to Pax River.
During the briefing over lunch in the Admiral’s mess, “Squirt” provided a pilot’s insight with regard to operating off of the USS Wasp
My background is as a F-18 Hornet pilot which is on all accounts is an easier airplane procedurally to fly than the Harrier. I have found this airplane to be just a really nice airplane to fly in a shipboard environment.
From taxiing around the deck to short take-offs that we’re doing and even the vertical landings that we’re doing, it’s very natural to fly. Prior to two weeks ago, I had never landed or taken off from this type of ship. I had done it on a big deck carrier, of course.
One thing that a lot of the pilots were concerned about was, as different from the carrier, when you take off you need to keep the airplane going straight, even while you’re taking off. On a carrier with a catapult track you want to do the same. It’s really easier than we thought it was going to be.
On the landing side, again never having landed an airplane in the hover or to a ship before, it’s all very two hand. The throttle is always pulling back, the stick is always up and down and it’s really very two hand that the cues you have from a pilot’s perspective made it very easy to get the airplane on board. The challenge is not, am I going to get the airplane on board. The challenge becomes, can I put my nose tire in a one foot by one foot square box on the deck. And that’s really a testament to the flight controls and the tools that the pilot has to put the airplane right where he wants it on the deck.