2012-09-08 By Robbin Laird
Major Bachmann flew the 200th sortie of the F-35 at Eglin on August 24, 2012. I had the unique opportunity to inform him of that fact after he got out of his cockpit and then afterwards had a chance to sit down and discuss progress on the F-35 at Eglin.
Question: You have been with the program for a while.
Bachmann: Yes I have. I have been with the program since 2006. And I have been here at Elgin for two and half years. Prior to that I have been a Harrier pilot and have done a stint as a forward air controller.
Question: How would describe the current learning process at Eglin with regard to the plane?
Bachmann: I would emphasize the role of the maintenance officers. These guys are on the cusp of getting their MOSs or Military Occupational Skills. Their jobs as avionics, or engine or power line maintainers mean’s they have gone to skill and are getting certified.
They have got airplanes to work on, and are getting ready to go to Yuma and stand up the first squadron there. Their ability to go to school, work on the airplanes, fix them when they come back from flights, and then we fly them again is absolutely fantastic for the program.
The maintainer cadre is what will cause the F-35B to succeed in the USMC. It is wickedly important.
The new Yuma squadron cannot survive without its core maintainers and it is really important that we get the training right.
Question: What about the stability of the aircraft?
Bachmann: The plane is a very stable platform to fly. And over time is becoming more and more predictable; the software from this point of view is mature.
And the other combat systems are already impressive. The pilots are already commenting that the combat systems are light years ahead of what legacy does.
Question: “Dog” Davis made the comment that one of his pilots was flying from Fort Worth to Eglin and was accompanied by two F-18s. He told me that the pilot asked the F-18s could see the “clean” F-16 meeting them from Eglin a significant distance ahead. Does that square with your experience?
Bachmann: Actually I was the pilot that General Davis was talking about.
Even in its relatively immature state, the combat systems are superior to legacy systems.
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