Lightning Pilots Ramp Up Training for HMS Queen Elizabeth Debut
(Source: Royal Navy; issued Aug 23, 2018)
Four test pilots are getting in last-minute training at Pax River, in Virginia, to prepare to operate their F-35B Lightning fighters from the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth next month, when she begins aircraft trials. (RN photo)
Ramping up training ahead of debuting on Britain’s new carrier, ex-Fleet Air Arm pilot Peter ‘Wizzer’ Wilson takes off from a replica ski jump in an F-35B.

Four test pilots are getting in last-minute training ready to take their specially-modified stealth fighters aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth next month.

They’ll conduct around 500 landings and take-offs on the 900ft deck of the future flagship – the first time the Portsmouth-based warship has hosted fast jets.

She’s about to strike out across the Atlantic – another first – after final preparations in the South Coast exercise areas.

Once in the US, 200 engineers and experts from the F-35 Integrated Test Force – based at Pax River air station 50 miles outside Washington DC – will embark with a myriad of sensors and data recorders to see how the state-of-the-art aircraft perform in various weather conditions/sea states and carrying various payloads.

The ski ramp was introduced on the previous generation of carriers to give Harriers extra lift, allowing them to take off at a slower speed/heavier weight than normal – and has been retained on the new flagships for the same reason.

Two specially-modified F-35Bs and four pilots – Mr Wilson from BAE, the RN’s Cdr Nathan Gray, Sqn Ldr Andy Edgell and a US Marine Corps aviator – will conduct the trials aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in two phases of trials this autumn, trials broken up by a high-profile visit to New York.

Weather and serviceability permitting, the first deck landing on the RN's 65,000-tonne future flagship is earmarked for the last week in September.

The F-35B is now operational with the US Marine Corps, but US ships do not feature the ski jump, which rises about 20ft above the regular deck.

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