First Air National Guard F-35 Instructor Pilot

Maj. Jay Spohn, a Florida Air National Guard pilot assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, became the Air Guard’s first F-35 instructor pilot, announced Eglin officials on Aug. 7. Spohn concluded the last of his six qualification flights on Aug. 3 and is now able to teach pilots to fly the F-35A model, according to Eglin’s release. “It felt really good,” said Spohn of the final qualification flight. He added, “Today’s flight was the culmination of two-and-a-half years of hard work.” Spohn is currently serving as assistant director of operations for Eglin’s 58th Fighter Squadron and chief of standards and evaluation for the 33rd Operations Group. He was selected in November 2009 to be part of the initial F-35A pilot cadre and help develop the strike fighter’s flight syllabus. In May, the 33rd FW began allowing non-test pilots to fly the F-35, clearing the way for Spohn’s qualification flights. (Eglin report by Maj. Karen Roganov)