AVIATION fans have been left in suspense over whether a highly anticipated fighter jet will be flying at this weekend’s Air Tattoo.
Managers of the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme had originally planned for the aircraft to fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford this weekend.
RIAT organisers have been celebrating ever since they secured the F-35 Lightning II’s visit, as this is the first time the fighter jet has ever left the USA. RIAT chief executive Tim Prince said it was something organisers had been trying to pin down for years.
However, after a recent engine fire, US officials decided to stop flying the jet until mechanics could better understand the problem.
Despite managers saying they have the brightest minds working on getting the aircraft back in the sky, aviation fans have been left in doubt over whether they will get to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime display.
“The F-35 will be housed here for the airshow, away from the public,” said F-35 programme general manager Lorraine Martin. “We are scheduled to fly at RIAT but it is dependent on return to flight.
“Visitors will still be able to see the full scale F-35 model, see the techno zone and meet the pilots."
The jet has never once been seen outside the US, yet its first international visit will be made to RAF Fairford.
It has been dubbed "the fighter of the future" and boasts supersonic speed, radar-evading stealth and extreme agility.
“The UK is a very special partner to the US government in militaries,” added Lorraine. “It seemed very appropriate that its international debut was between the US and the UK.
“For us, coming to the air show is exciting. The Marine Corps is going operational a year from now so this is sort of a mini test to make sure that it flies well in the future.”
F-35 B pilot Peter Wilson, or Wizzer, opened up about what was so truly special about the F-35.
“It really is a unique aircraft. It can transform into a bit of a beasty when it’s up in the air,” he said.
“It’s just the best plane I’ve ever flown and has 27 doors, just think of that when you see it flying. Everything is automatic and it’s like an IPad, you just need to touch it.”
Peter went on to say it was even like he could talk to the aircraft, thanks to a brand new helmet display which lets pilots see immense detail on the visor of their helmets.
“It’s very cool. There’s even a camera underneath the plane, so when you look down you can see what’s going on under you. It’s like the plane is invisible.”
Managers could not confirm, during a special media event at RAF Fairford today, whether the F-35 would be flying at RIAT but said they were working as hard as possible to make it happen.
The Air Tattoo begins on Friday at RAF Fairford, with a special Red Arrows Pit Day. Visit airtattoo.com for more.