A seminal event in naval aviation history will be celebrated today at Norfolk Naval Station when officials and dignitaries gather for a (non-public) celebration of civilian flier Eugene Ely’s gutty Nov. 14, 1910, biplane flight off a makeshift shipboard flight deck — the first time it had ever been done. Last week, the latest in a long line of official successor aircraft — and the fighter jet on which the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps are pinning their future manned tactical aircraft programs — arrived at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The F-35C Lightning II, the carrier-capable variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, touched down smoothly at Patuxent on Nov. 6 with Lockheed Martin mission systems test pilot David “Doc” Nelson, an Air Force vet, at the stick. Here’s video of flight highlights (it’s mostly silent until the landing sequence, filmed by a ground-based camera, is spliced in).
For those of you who speak the language, the F-35C “achieved successful air refuels at a maximum load of 19,800 pounds during the flight,” according to Lockheed Martin.
While at Patuxent River, the jet will conduct air-to-air refueling and performance testing — the former an unimaginable concept in 1910, the latter simply skipped by Ely that day. In fact, the engine on the Curtiss Hudson Flier he flew was installed the same day, on board the ship.