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Boeing Completes JSF Customer Flight Tests (July 3)



NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md.---The Boeing Joint Strike Fighter program has successfully accomplished all of its government-defined flight-test requirements. The program reached the final milestone Sunday by making a series of short takeoffs at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland.

"This is among the most significant achievements in the program to date," said Frank Statkus, Boeing vice president and JSF general manager. "Our innovative flight-test methods, modeling and simulation, and flight-test software tools have contributed to outstanding efficiency and an unheard-of sortie rate for conventional aircraft, much less for a concept-demonstrator aircraft."

The X-32B concept demonstrator has validated the Boeing solution to the program's short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) requirements. Having now met all the defined requirements, including a flight in which the aircraft took off in less than 550 feet of roll, Boeing will continue performing a series of short takeoffs at successively shorter runway lengths.

"In 58 flights to date, the X-32B has been outstanding," Statkus said. "It has consistently demonstrated that our direct-lift system is the simplest, most reliable and lowest-risk solution for the STOVL requirement."

For the short takeoff, Boeing lead STOVL test pilot Dennis O'Donoghue accelerated the X-32B down the runway to a speed of 80 knots, then pushed a throttle-mounted flow-switch button that redirected engine thrust from the cruise nozzle to lift nozzles in the underside of the airplane. The lift nozzles were preset at a position of 60 degrees aft.

When the plane reached 150 knots and approximately 750 feet of altitude, O'Donoghue redirected the thrust back through the cruise nozzle to complete the transition to conventional flight. The X-32B then completed a number of tests before landing.

"This STOVL milestone is further proof of the ease and low pilot workload associated with direct lift," O'Donoghue said. "The Boeing direct-lift system enables me to simply push a button and switch the thrust from the cruise nozzle to the lift nozzles in one second and at any power setting."

Statkus credited the Boeing JSF One Team's recent achievements ­ the short takeoff and the program's first hovers and vertical landings after transition from conventional flight ­ to an outstanding integrated test team that includes pilots, engineers and other personnel from industry and the U.S. and United Kingdom governments. He also praised the X-32B's Pratt & Whitney engine and Rolls-Royce lift system.

"The demonstrated robustness and reliability of the Pratt & Whitney/Rolls-Royce propulsion system has been key to the success of our X-32B STOVL operations," Statkus said. "The engine has been rock steady in all aspects of flight operations, including both the physical interaction with the airplane and the functional integration with the flight control system."

Statkus added, "The Rolls-Royce lift system clearly is a substantial leap forward in direct-lift technology. Pilot workload has been reduced significantly thanks in large part to the technologically advanced attitude control system."

Having completed all customer requirements, which include transition to and from vertical flight, hover, vertical landing and short takeoff, Boeing will pursue its own objectives before concluding the X-32B flight-test program later this month.

Underscoring the commonality of its JSF design, Boeing is using only two aircraft to demonstrate requirements for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, U.K. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in the current concept-demonstration phase of the program.

The Boeing X-32A aircraft, which demonstrated both aircraft-carrier and conventional-takeoff-and-landing objectives, completed its flight-test program Feb. 3 after 66 flights and 50.4 hours with six different pilots at the controls.

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Boeing JSF X-32B Completes Government Flight-Test Requirements