After weeks of ground school and emergency handling simulator sessions it was finally time to strap in and see what the new toy could do. There is no F-35 twin seat variant, so my first solo was also my first flight in the real aircraft.
I’d picked the hottest time of the year, and the ATIS was broadcasting a solid 45°C (a normal Arizona summer day).
After a few checks and switch flicking the engine was roaring to life, I’d been released from maintenance and was on my way to the runway.
Cleared for immediate takeoff, I slammed the throttle all the way forward. The engine didn’t care that it was so hot. It was throwing more power out the back from its single engine than I’d ever felt before in the dual-engine Hornet. The jet was just as excited as I was to blast down the runway as quickly as possible.
In just a few thousand feet the wheels were retracting and I was heading for the airspace with my wingman in tow.
The handling felt very similar to the Hornet. The big difference was the cockpit - now I had a huge screen the size of two large iPads in front of me displaying a huge amount of information from the F-35’s multiple sensors.
The next 1.5 hours passed by quickly. I threw the jet around to its limits, went supersonic with ease and pulled more G than I’d ever done - just a standard day of getting comfortable in the new office!