F-35B lands backwards on HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier

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An F-35 fighter jet has landed backwards on the UK’s new aircraft carrier the Queen Elizabeth during flight tests off the eastern coast of the USA.

The ‘back-to-front’ manoeuvre, which is described as “like driving the wrong way down a one-way street” is intended to give pilots and the flight deck team more options to safely land the fighter jet in an emergency.

During the maneuver, the aircraft faces the stern instead of the bow of the ship, before it is brought down to a hover and moves over the flight deck before setting it down.

The landing was performed by RAF test pilot, squadron leader Andy Edgell. He said, “It was briefly bizarre to bear down on the ship and see the waves parting on the bow as you fly an approach aft facing.”

“It was also an opportunity fly towards the ship, stare at the bridge, and wonder what the captain is thinking.”

The F-35B’s nine weeks of operational flight testing on board the Queen Elizabeth carrier started in October and is due to finish in mid-December.

The reverse maneuver marks the last phase of the nine-week flight test program. Test pilots have already completed conventional landings and a rolling landing, where the F-35 approaches the flight deck at low speed and gently rolls to a halt, without the need for arrestor wires.

The operational tests have focused on assessing how the F-35, the ship and ship’s company perform while launching and landing in different weather conditions and carrying various payloads.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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