PILOTS who will fly fighter jets on Portsmouth’s new aircraft carriers are preparing to land using a state-of-the-art simulator.
Although it will be years before the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers come into service, those who will fly the planes need to be familiar with the flight deck well in advance.
Flight tests are already taking place over in the United States, where the fighters are being built.
And back in the UK, a simulator is putting pilots through their paces to train them how to land the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the jet.
Peter Wilson is the lead test pilot for BAE Systems.
He says the simulator will save money because any problems can be spotted early.
He said: ‘This is extremely important as a risk reduction measure.
‘We’re getting an insight into the future.
‘We’re able to accurately simulate the air wake around the ship, the lights embedded in the deck, the procedures and radio calls.
‘We’re spotting issues and solving problems and putting design in place now.
‘It’s cheaper and easier to put those designs in early.
‘We are saving millions of dollars of potential design change in the future.’
The BAE Systems flight simulator is in Warton, Lancashire.
Engineers must work out how to land the F35Bs on the flight deck.
Coming down too steeply could break the fighter jet or its gear.
If the aircraft lands too fast, its pilot could be unable to stop it in time from running off the front of the carrier.
And coming down too shallow could spell disaster if the stern of the ship was to suddenly rise into the flight path.
Mr Wilson added: ‘There’s a great engineering challenge involved with trying to bring this aeroplane back to the ship with the maximum payload to meet the requirements.’
BAE Systems carries out around 10 per cent of the work on the F35 programme.
The firm produces the back end of the aircraft including the rear aft and tails.
There are three types of F35: F35A, a conventional take-off and landing variant; F35B, a short take-off and vertical landing variant; and F35C, the carrier variant.
Meanwhile, work is continuing at BAE System’s Portsmouth shipyard on various sections of the second new carrier, HMS Prince of Wales.