F-35C maiden flight  (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Maiden flight lasted about an hour

The F-35 Lightning II is one of the most ambitious and most expensive aircraft platforms that has ever entered development by the U.S. military. To help offset some of the costs to develop and build the F-35, the U.S. entered into agreements with partner nations that would allow the nations to buy the aircraft and share some of the costs of the program.

There have been some significant issues with the program that have put the F-35 behind schedule in some instances and run costs up. However, Lockheed Martin has announced that the aircraft has hit a milestone this month with the first flight of a production F-35 taking place on February 25. The production aircraft is an F-35A, which is the conventional take off and landing version of the fighter.

“The aircraft was rock-solid from takeoff to landing, and successfully completed all the tests we put it through during the flight,” said Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Bill Gigliotti. “The Air Force is getting a great jet that represents a huge leap in capability, and we’re looking forward to getting it into the hands of the service pilots in just a few more weeks.”

Test pilot Bill Gigliotti’s test flight lasted about an hour (the aircraft took off from the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base at 3:05pm and landed at 4:05pm). Lockheed Martin notes that the jet will continue testing in Fort Worth for another month before the Air Force accepts the aircraft.

The most trouble prone of the F-35 variants is the F-35B STOVL aircraft. In January of 2011, the F-35B completed five vertical landings bringing the aircraft closer to its goal of being delivered to the Marine Corps this year. The carrier version of the F-35, dubbed the F-35C, is should be delivered to the Navy starting in 2012.

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