VMFA-112 F/A-18A BuNo 162469 flies chase as USAF Lt. Col.
James "Flipper" Kromberg becomes the first military
pilot to fly F-35A "AA-1" over Fort Worth, TX
Photo: Lockheed / David Drais
1/31/2008 - NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH, TX -- An Edwards
Air Force Base pilot became the first Air Force and government
test pilot to fly the F-35 Lightning II during a test sortie
at the Lockheed Martin facility here Jan. 30.
Lieutenant Col. James Kromberg, director of operations for
the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards, flew the F-35, numbered
AA-1, which is currently flying envelope expansion, flying qualities
evaluations, subsystems testing and initial systems assessments
at Fort Worth.
The test flight consisted of the takeoff, handling qualities
maneuvers, engine throttle transients, formation maneuvers with
an F-16 Fighting Falcon and the landing.
After the flight, Colonel Kromberg said the F-35 flew "very
"The aircraft was responsive across all flight regimes,"
Colonel Kromberg said. "The engine thrust response was
excellent -- accelerating very quickly. The aircraft was very
stable during formation flight."
The colonel said he was very excited to fly the F-35.
"I have been smiling since arriving at the aircraft this
morning and haven't stopped," he said.
Before the flight, the test team briefed Colonel Kromberg covering
all test maneuvers, safety of flight requirements and potential
Prior to flying the F-35, Colonel Kromberg received training
at Fort Worth in the aircraft simulator, control room crew resource
management and emergency procedures. He's been a part of the
test team since September 2005.
Aside from the training, Colonel Kromberg was involved with
helping draft the F-35's initial flight manual, test plans and
aircrew training procedures, he said.
Colonel Kromberg has more than 3,200 flight hours experience
flying various aircraft including the F-16, F-15 Eagle, T-38
Talon and AV-8B Harrier.
Before joining the Air Force in 2003, Colonel Kromberg was
a Marine officer from 1987 to 2003. During that time, he attended
Naval Flight Training, served in three AV-8B Harrier squadrons
as both a maintenance and operations officer, attended the U.S.
Air Force Test Pilot School and served as the lead AV-8B operational
test director. Before his current stint at the 461st FLTS, Colonel
Kromberg served as the Test Pilot School assistant operations
officer and plans and programs director.
As a former Marine with AV-8B experience and a graduate of
both the Marine's weapons school and Air Force's TPS, he is
uniquely qualified to be the first military pilot on this joint
program, said Col. Arnie Bunch, 412th Test Wing commander.
"As the Edwards Integrated Test Force director of operations,
he is the military pilot most closely associated with tests
of AA-1," Colonel Bunch said. "He has participated
in simulator tests, flight control development and cockpit design
of the JSF for the last two years."
Because the F-35 is in the development stages, only Test Pilot
School graduates can fly the aircraft first, Colonel Bunch said.
The initial pilot cadre -- contractor and military -- are chosen
for their fighter aircraft backgrounds, extensive test experience
and experience in the JSF program.
There are advantages to having both contractors and military
testers fly test missions, Colonel Bunch said.
"Contractor pilots typically are assigned to the same
program for many years and provide continuity," Colonel
Bunch said. "Military pilots bring more recent operational
experience and warfighters' perspective."
Colonel Kromberg said he was appreciative of this opportunity
to fly the F-35.
"Though I am the first government pilot, this flight is
really just a continuation of the ongoing successful test effort
the contractor, government and partner countries take part in
each day," Colonel Kromberg said. "I am very humbled
at this opportunity to represent the Air Force as the first
government F-35 pilot."
The F-35 is scheduled to arrive at Edwards for further flight
tests in the spring.
Source: USAF Press Release by Senior Airman Julius Delos