First U.K. pilots begin training to fly F-35

pilot tidball nwfdn

Lt. Cdr. Ian Tidball of the U.K. Royal Navy discusses the F-35 program during a recent interview at Eglin Air Force Base.

MARK KULAW | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 02:50 PM.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — Last week, the first two United Kingdom pilots started training to fly the F-35.

They join an elite rank. Only 30 pilots in the world have been or are in the process of training to fly the new stealth fighter jet, which is still in testing phases.

“It’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Royal Air Force squadron leader Franki Buchler, one of the two pilots. “I feel very privileged and lucky. I hope I do the aircraft and the Air Force justice.”

Buchler and fellow pilot, Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. Ian Tidball, have joined the U.S. Marines Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, which is conducting initial training and instruction on the F-35B at Eglin Air Force Base.

The Air Force is conducting similar training on the F-35A variant.

The U.K. pilots will take academic courses for about six weeks before they go on their first flights.

In addition to the two pilots, 12 aircraft maintainers, two supervisors and their families moved from the United Kingdom to the area to join the Marines and learn about the F-35.

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