It is no surprise that Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, the test pilot for the new F-35 fighter jets being bought by the RAF and Royal Navy, says the computer game generation take to the £92m aircraft so easily.
Because climbing into the cockpit of one of these planes, which will form the backbone of the UK’s airborne defences for the next few decades, is just like entering a giant computer game.
The pilot is surrounded by graphics from all sides, providing instant analysis of the speed at which the aircraft is travelling, navigational aids, mapping and terrain information, along with camera images from all sides giving every conceivable view from the aircraft.
This latter factor effectively enables the pilot to “see through” the aircraft and look at the land below them.
Video: What is it like to fly an F-35 fighter jet?
Targeting information, navigation and altitude information is in one place, on one screen, making it exceptionally simple for the pilot to assess the situation. It’s called ‘sensor fusion’.
And added to and enhancing that information is a helmet that is wired into the plane that enables the pilot to see, at all times, the position of enemy aircraft and any incoming missiles they may have fired, as well as friendly aircraft.
When the pilot moves their head to the left or right, the data goes with them, so at no point is there any blind spot.
All of that makes it exceptionally easy for pilots like Sqn Ldr Edgell to fly the aircraft.
Landing the plane is simplicity itself, even for someone like me, who has never flown before.
The aircraft handles exceptionally well and only the slightest touch on the controls will coax the mighty beast on the course set by the pilot.
Landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean might sound like trying to place a football on a sixpence from the other end of the field but the plane does all of the work.
The “lift fan” on the aircraft, mounted just behind the cockpit, means that the jet can not only take off from a very short distance, but can also “hover” above the deck prior to landing, like a Harrier jump jet, making vertical landing possible.
When taking off or landing, the pilot can also see an image of the lift fan, helping them know precisely where they are in the process.
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As for the cockpit itself, it is light and comfortable, because the aim of the manufacturer has been to ensure the comfort of the pilot at all times.
Which is understandable: if you’re caught up in a dogfight with the enemy, or even simply patrolling the nation’s airspace while armed to the teeth with an array of deadly laser-guided missiles, you want to feel comfortable.
Source: SKY News