In a promising sign of continued progress on the F-35 program, test pilots have completed their 200th sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, according to coverage on Flight Global.
From the article:
US Marine Corps Maj Joseph Bachmann, a test pilot assigned to VMFAT-501, flew Eglin’s 200th sortie with the type on 24 August. Bachmann was instructing one the unit’s transitioning pilots, USMC Maj Mike Rountree; a highly experienced weapons school instructor. Rountree is converting to the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B from the Boeing AV-8B Harrier II.
“The aircraft have matured dramatically since the early days,” Bachmann says. “What we’re seeing is just leaps and bounds of maturity here with the airplanes we have.”
The aircraft are predictable and seem to be maintainable, “which is good for the sortie production rate,” he adds. Rountree says that the 33rd Fighter Wing’s maintainers have been gaining experience and learning how the F-35’s systems behave, which has helped the unit increase its sortie generation rate.
In other positive news, test flights for F-35s no longer require a chase aircraft, as the progress continues. Future developments for the Eglin F-35A program include training for aerial refueling operations.