Air Force Pilots, Maintainers on F-35 Pros and Cons

Defense News // May 11, 2016

As the Air Force races to declare its F-35 jets operational before the end of the year, observers are still warning about schedule delays, a faulty logistics system, and software glitches.

But here at Edwards, the pilots, maintainers and technicians of the F-35 integrated test force say they are happy with the plane – in fact, in many ways the joint strike fighter is a huge improvement over legacy systems.

‘The Burger King jet’

Lt. Col. Raja Chari said the biggest difference between the F-35 and flying legacy platforms is that the pilot, freed from basic “stick and rudder” tasks by the JSF’s automation, is able to focus on mission planning.

“Each plane is its own command and control platform,” said Chari, who began his career flying F-15s and is now director of the F-35 ITF and commander of the 461st flight test squadron. “You don’t have to do as much stick and rudder, just getting to and from, because there are so many automated modes to use on the F-35...[It] is almost as easy as breathing.”

Maj. Raven LeClair, assistant director of operations for the 461st flight test squadron, told Defense News May 4 he likes the F-35’s touch screen display, which each pilot can customize to his or her liking.

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