Lancashire test pilot makes history taking off from a ski jump

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A Lancashire pilot has become the first person in the world to launch an F-35 fighter jet from a ski jump.

BAE test pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson, who is from the Ribble Valley, made history in the Lancashire-made jet at an event at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, USA.

Mr. Peter Wilson as the pilot

Mr. Peter Wilson as the pilot

The launch marks the start of an initial testing phase expected to last two weeks.

The trials demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to take off safely and effectively from a ski-jump ramp similar to that which will be used on the UK’s new aircraft carrier. Ski-jump ramps provide the aircraft with an upward flight path meaning the aircraft can take off from the available distance with a greater payload, which means more weapons.

Whalley-born pilot Pete, who trained for the event at the simulation facility at BAE’s Warton base, said: “It’s always exciting when you get to do something in aviation for the first time.

“We spend literally years planning these ‘firsts’, with hundreds of hours in the simulator as the event gets close, but even with all the preparation the test team remains focussed on the potential that something unexpected might happen.

“As is usually the case, the jet performed as expected and it was a real pleasure.”

BAE Systems plays a key role in the design, development and manufacture of both the aircraft and the aircraft carrier.

These recent trials continue to inform the F-35 programme and the BAE Systems engineers involved in it on both sides of the Atlantic. That includes BAE Systems flight test engineers based in the US and engineers in Lancashire helping to develop and test the latest technologies for the aircraft.

In Warton, the data from the flight trials will be used to further improve the models used in a unique simulation facility. Using the latest cutting edge technologies, engineers have developed a simulator that allowed pilots and engineers to fly the F-35 from the deck of the Queen Elizabeth carrier before either are available.