Local

April 13, 2012

Lockheed chief test pilot hits 1,000 hours in Raptor

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by Linda KC Reynolds
staff writer
Lockheed Martin photographs by Kevin Robertson
Above: Lockheed Martin F-22 Chief Test Pilot James “JB” Brown III lands at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after reaching 1,000 hours in the Raptor. Brown has more stealth fighter hours than anyone worldwide. So far he has flown 8,800 hours in 124 different aircraft. Left to right, wife Lisa, Lily, James, Whitney and Callie Brown.

Friends and family gathered April 6 to congratulate F-22 Lockheed Martin Chief Test Pilot James “JB” Brown III on his 1,000 hours of flying an F-22 at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Brown is the first test pilot to reach 1,000 hours in a Raptor.

Guests cheered as lieutenants poured traditional buckets of ice water over his head.

“I think they are a little too eager,” joked Brown as he shivered and tried to dry off.

“We are so proud of him – it was a hard earned accomplishment,” said his wife Lisa speaking of close calls and the loss of several friends including Lockheed Martin Test Pilot David “Cools” Cooley in an F-22 crash. “I just wish David could have been here today, that would have been very special.”

Brown’s accomplishments include Fellow and past president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, flying 8,800 hours in 124 different aircraft, a 16 year career in the U.S. Air Force, United Airlines pilot and chief test pilot for F-117 Nighthawk, where he helped develop and test improvements to the weapons system that were highly valued in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied force.

What is his favorite aircraft?

“The F-22 of course,” said Brown. “Then again, for sheer stick and rudder fun my favorite is a 1946 clipped-wing Piper Cub.

“The Raptor actually does represent a marriage of all the things a fighter pilot wants – power, speed, maneuverability, stealth, situational awareness and a truly lethal arsenal of weapons.”

The F-22 is the third fighter in which he has achieved more than 950 flight hours. The F-4 and F-117 were the others. With the F-117, he has more stealth fighter hours than anyone in the world.

“This is fantastic,” said Boeing F-22 Test Pilot Steve “Hooter” Rainey of Brown’s success. “It’s always great to see a superior aviator and a superior aircraft together – especially on such a noteworthy occasion.”

One of his biggest accomplishments: raising six daughters ages ranging from 30 to two and a half.

Brown was born in Bluefield, W.Va., in 1954 and raised in Birmingham, Ala.

His father was an amateur pilot and inspired him to fly.

“I was six years old and watched Alan Shepard walk out to his Mercury Redstone rocket and fly into space,” said Brown. “This represented the pinnacle of technology and human achievement. Pretty impressive stuff for a first grader; besides, I thought the space suit was really cool.”

Brown applied to the NASA astronaut-training program but was rejected because of an abnormal electrocardiogram.

With his quick wit and good nature, he is often a master of ceremonies at special events. True to form, he rattled the base with a sonic boom before landing. “That was for my girls.”

“JB never heard a joke he couldn’t remember and is a choir master for colorful fighter pilot drinking songs,” said Darin Russell, a Lockheed Martin photographer who has flown often with Brown. While attending the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards, Brown’s fellow students presented him with the Onizuka Prop Wash Award as the student who contributed most to class spirit and morale.

“Today I hit 1,000 hours but that only represents a small part of the tens of thousands of hours our crew chiefs, engineers and maintenance team spends in time for preparation,” said Brown. “They are the ones who get up early and bloody their knuckles to make it all happen so I can hop in and have fun. They are the best, and for them I am truly thankful.”




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