The firstLightning II Joint Strike Fighter took off on its initial test flight from in Fort Worth, Texas on 12:44 December 15, 2006 piloted by the program’s Chief Pilot Jon Beesley. The aircraft was airborne 35 minutes on its maiden flight. the jet lifted off and began a climb-out to 15,000 feet. Beesley then performed a series of maneuvers to test aircraft handling and the operation of the Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan and subsystems.
Dan Crowley,executive vice president and general manager of the program, said the aircraft has continued to meet or exceed expectations during its assembly and pre-flight checkouts. It has now embarked on a 12,000-hour flight-test program designed to validate tens of thousands of hours of testing already completed in laboratories.