Sqn Ldr Justin Paines
Squadron Leader Justin Paines became the first Royal Air Force pilot to evaluate the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical landing performance of the supersonic Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter X-35B.
Paines, a Harrier pilot who was selected to test the X-35 demonstrator aircraft for the United Kingdom, roared into the air with a series of three hovers for a total of eight and a half minutes at the Lockheed Martin plant in Palmdale, Calif., on June 30 2001.
Under the hood of the latest Harrier is a revolutionary new system called vectored-thrust aircraft advanced flight control (VAAC). Designed by QinetiQ's predecessor, DERA, with funding from the US-UK Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Office, VAAC uses advanced "fly by wire" technology to turn over many of the Harrier's flight characteristics to computers. This makes the aircraft much simpler to fly and enables engineers to fine-tune it quickly for improved handling, based on pilot feedback between sorties. It also provides valuable data for use in flight simulators. The Harrier, with its unique swing-nozzle engines, continues to be the leading "Short Take Off, Vertical Landing" (STOVL) aircraft, and remains essential to the US Marine Corps, Royal Navy and RAF. Its two-seater cockpit has been modified to accommodate VAAC, which enables the rear pilot to assume full control of the aircraft.