The News defence correspondent '˜lands' jet on HMS Queen Elizabeth

SITTING in the cockpit of an F-35b is like being cocooned inside some sort of futuristic spacecraft.

Thursday, 18th January 2018, 6:00 am
Defence correspondent om Cotterill on the jet simulator

I’m surrounded by a range of complicated-looking controls; a joystick to my right controls the direction my jet flies in — its pitch and yaw. While to my left there is another bulky lever to boost my speed.

In front there are a number of buttons, too — although nowhere near as many as I thought there’d be.

‘The F-35 is intuitive, it’s seriously easy to fly,’ my instructor Squadron Leader Andy Edgell says confidently.

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‘There’s not a plethora of dials, knobs and switches any more.’

‘We can have untrained civilians flying a simulator like this in minutes,’ he adds, with a smirk.

My simulator is a metal skeleton of the real thing, with no canopy and a large computer screen. My mission was to make a safe landing on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

My screen shows me everything, from altitude and speed to what vector of approach to take.

It feels like a computer game — although both my joysticks are bulky and took awhile to get the hang of.

But once I had, landing on the virtual flight deck of the 280m warship became a doddle.

I was able to hover in place before slowing lowering myself down.

The only tricky bit was controlling my speed and adjusting the sensitive steering when I’m hovering.

Surprised, I ask Sqd Ldr Edgell if it’s that easy in the real thing.

‘It’s easier — the plane doesn’t jerk around nearly as much in real life,’ he says.

Perhaps he was being nice. Perhaps not. Either way, if the F-35 is anything like the simulator, the pilots will be in for a treat.