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F-35 Lightning Lights Up Oshkosh
WHITMAN AIRFIELD, OSHKOSH, WI (July 22) – The F-35 Lightning is today’s star of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, the world’s largest aviation event held at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, WI. The United States Air Force chose this venue for the civilian debut of its newly-minted F-35. And debut it did.
When it lit afterburners and skyrocketed out of sight in a blink and reappeared seconds later, capable of landing vertically on a dime, Patriotic jaws dropped and state enemies fled for the borders. Goodbye.
It’s a beast, to be sure. Fifty-one feet long, 14 feet tall, agile as a dragonfly, the F-35 Lightning weighs in at 29,300 pounds heavy and is powered by a F135-PW jet engine producing roughly 40,000 pounds of thrust generating top-secret speeds in excess of 1,200 mph, and (here’s the clincher) the ability to land vertically, helicopter style.
And then there’s room for 18,000 pounds of advanced, computerized, laser-assisted, GPS-guided, eyes-on, WYSIWYG, mission-accomplished weapons. Little footnote, that.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is host to more than 500,000 people from 60 countries. Nearly 10,000 aircraft land at Oshkosh area during the week. This, the “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration,” showcases flying machines ranging from the smallest ultralight to massive airliners and military aircraft.
North Carolina is well represented with nine companies and hundreds of attendees. Dozens from local counties.
On an Oshkosh airport ramp, engines silent, high-tech beacons off, goomba gawkers all around, the roped-off F-35 holds forth with Defcon 2 gravitas, a coiled technological aviation advancement exuding energy and power and ability. It’s seriously serious ability.
Indulging in some technical jargon, the F-35 Lightning is referred to as a 5th Generation aviation fighter, combining advanced stealth capabilities with fighter aircraft speed and agility, fully-fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced logistics and sustainment.
Want some bullet-point characteristics? Try these: Electronic attack; air-to-air; air-to-surface; surveillance and reconnaissance; all weather; supreme stealth; CTOL; STVOL, and interoperability.
Parked on the ramp the F-35 calls to mind a Bangladesh man-eating Tiger. It’s crouched patiently in the deep weeds, hard muscles bunched, sensors ablaze, stalking the jittery momma deer and its fragile baby deer licking stale backwash from a parched pond on some scorched patch of nothing.
The tiger is hungry. Its young cubs are starving back at the den. Aggressive determination and unrelenting focus prevail. Dinner will be coming home, make no mistake about that.
If the Oshkosh ogling crowd is any indication, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter will be bringing home dinner, too.
The F-35 was the winner of a grueling contest for a $200 billion-plus Pentagon contract. In this era of drone technology, it may be the last manned military fighter plane made. And, true, it is getting some grief because an F16 Falcon reportedly outturned it in a dogfight. But make no mistake, this bad boy, the F-35 Lightning, will rule for decades.
Two of them screamed into Oshkosh on Wednesday, day three of the air event, with deafening low passes in front of crowds before parking on Boeing Plaza for display. It joined modern and vintage military planes on the plaza that includes the B-52 Stratofortress and F-22 Raptor.
“EAA AirVenture attendees have often seen the latest military aircraft make appearances at Oshkosh over the past 30 years, a list that has included such cutting-edge aircraft as the F-117 Stealth fighter and the F-22 Raptor,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member services, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “The addition of the F-35 as a highlight further fortifies AirVenture as an unmatched event to see a group of aircraft in one place that you can see nowhere else in the world.”
The day concluded with a rare nighttime aerial aerobatic show, capped with New Year’s Eve-style fireworks. Tens of thousands of people watched the after-dark aerial performances from lawns and campgrounds surrounding the airport runway.
Earlier in the day an aircraft accident temporarily closed the runways at Wittman Regional Airport. At 7:45 a.m. a six-seat Piper Malibu aircraft crashed during landing on the east end of Runway 9/27. There were five people aboard the aircraft.
Four of the airplane’s occupants were able to walk away from the aircraft on their own. The fifth person was extracted by members of the Oshkosh Fire Department and transported via medevac helicopter to an area hospital.
The aircraft was piloted by 46-year-old Kenneth J. Kaminski of Benton Harbor, Michigan, said Dick Knapinski EAA Senior Communications Advisor. Also aboard the airplane were three other Michigan residents: Gerald T. Kaminski, 71; Margaret C. Laing, 30; Nathan P. Gargano, 26; and Neil F. Dill, 56. Hometowns of the passengers were not immediately available.
The NTSB is leading the investigation into the accident.
The accident closed Wittman Regional Airport for about 2-1/2 hours.