The second F-35B development aircraft, BF-2, joined its BF-1 sister at NAS Patuxent River near Washington DC on December 29 prior to the commencement of STOVL flight trials.
BF-1 had been grounded since arriving at Pax River in mid November, ostensibly for only 15 days so that ‘scheduled maintenance’ could be performed on the aircraft, but only returned to the air for a check flight on December 23 and is yet to commence the ‘step down’ flight trials to vertical flight.
The vertical flight trials were originally scheduled to have occurred in early 2009, but continued delays in getting BF-1 into the air have seen this slip by almost a year. Lockheed Martin officials are now saying they expect the aircraft to achieve a vertical landing in January, but reports claim the USMC has said this may slip to as late as June.
Meanwhile, the first F-35 development aircraft, AA-1 has been flown to NAS China Lake in California, and has been retired from flight test. Remarkably, it will be destroyed as part of live fire and battle damage repair assessment testing.