First International F-35 Student Pilot Flies

Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Frankie Buchler this week became the first international student pilot to complete a sortie in the F-35 strike fighter, announced officials at Eglin AFB, Fla., home of the F-35 schoolhouse, on Thursday. Buchler, who is training to be an instructor pilot in the Marine Corps’ F-35B variant, took to the air on March 19, according to Eglin’s release. “There were no surprises, the jet was fun to fly, and the flight went as expected,” said Buchler. Buchler’s instructor pilot flew as his wingman during the sortie. Buchler is scheduled to complete his training sorties by early April, states the release. “The F-35 has enormous potential and will be a great compliment to our Typhoons,” he said. Buchler’s first flight comes amid other “first” milestones for the F-35 program this month. On March 6, Edwards AFB, Calif., received its first two Air Force F-35A operational test aircraft, and Nellis AFB., Nev., took delivery of its first F-35As. On March 21, marines at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., completed the first vertical landing with an F-35B operational jet, according to prime contractor Lockheed Martin. (Includes Eglin report by Maj. Karen Roganov and Edwards report by Laura Mowry)