HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFNS) — The Ogden Air Logistics Complex completed an F-35B Lightning II functional check flight here June 18, after the first depot-level short take off and vertical landing modifications were completed on two F-35Bs for the Marine Corps.
Lt. Col. Kevin Hall, a member of the 514th Flight Test Squadron and the first depot test pilot in the Air Force qualified in the F-35B, took off from Hill Air Force Base and zoomed to altitude before heading to the Utah Test and Training Range for a functional check.
As he returned to base, Hall converted the versatile aircraft for short takeoff vertical landing operations and performed a “short” landing and a “rolling” takeoff.
Witnessing the successful flight was “eye-watering,” said Lt. Gen. Lee Levy II, the commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center.
The Marine Corps sent two F-35Bs to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex on Feb. 2, 2015, for depot-level modifications. The jets came to Hill AFB from the Marine Corps with less than a week’s notice.
In just over four months, workers completed the modifications necessary for the F-35B’s initial operational capability, putting in 24,000 hours to get the job done.
“The work accomplished by the men and women of the 570th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron has been nothing short of amazing,” said Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander.
Completing the modifications on time required the maintainers to overcome numerous challenges, Buhler said. They removed sections of the aircraft that many thought would never be removed, and they strengthened wing ribs and worked in areas that required rare “micro tolerances.”
“In the process, the maintainers developed techniques that will be used as benchmarks in a variety of depot operations in the future,” Buhler said. “The accomplishments of the members of the squadron — in concert with our Lockheed Martin teammates, with the support of the 75th Air Base Wing — have been remarkable.”
The second F-35B is scheduled to be completed in the coming days.
“I couldn’t be prouder of you and the support we’re providing to our joint partners,” Levy said in a message to the workforce. “The Marines were counting on us, and you delivered.”