This Fighter Plane Landing Has Never Been Attempted


NARRATOR: The F-35 test pilots
are preparing for their most dangerous challenge to date. The F-35B is designed to stop
in mid-air before landing vertically, using
immense downward thrust like a rocket in reverse. But it can only do that if
it’s as light as possible. Any unexpended
weapons brought back, or any unburnt fuel would have
to be ditched into the sea, so the deceptively simple
plan is to add forward speed to the vertical
landing, flying half like a rocket and half
like a plane to give extra lift under the wings. PETE “WIZZER” WILSON: A
little bit tight this time. NARRATOR: So far,
the pilots have just been making tentative
approaches to test speed and height combinations. [BEEPING] RADIO FEMALE: Fuel. NARRATOR: But no one
has yet attempted a shipborne rolling
vertical landing for real. The man who will
attempt the world’s first-ever shipborne
rolling vertical landing is Pete “Wizzer” Wilson. I’m excited, actually, really. I’m tingling. I’m tingling with anticipation
for going out and doing it. And about every two minutes,
I’m playing it back in my head. NARRATOR: Wizzer has
to get this just right. His rate of descent and
speed must be exact. The slightest mistake now, and
he could smash into the deck and become a fireball. FLIGHT CREW: All
right, watch the speed. Wave off, wave off, wave off. NARRATOR: First attempt,
too high and too fast. Wizzer goes round again. PETE “WIZZER” WILSON: All
right, 2.3 on the gas. Doin’ all right. Just till the last second. NARRATOR: He must now follow
those guidelines all the way. That horizontal line halfway
down is his point of no return. Beyond that, there’s
no turning back. He’ll be committed to land. FLIGHT CREW (ON RADIO):
Wave off, wave off. Waving off. NARRATOR: Second attempt,
too fast, too low. Another two seconds, and he
would have been committed and probably crash landed. FLIGHT CREW (ON RADIO): Let’s
take it around for another go. NARRATOR: If Wizzer
can’t land this time, he may have to abandon
the SRVL altogether. PETE “WIZZER” WILSON:
OK, coming down now. FLIGHT CREW (ON
RADIO): All right, just thin it out a little bit. It’s below 200 feet. It’s coming down now. You’re on the center line. Come on back, line. All right. Looking good. Off center line,
slightly low now. PETE “WIZZER”
WILSON: Little low. Indicating good. On center line. FLIGHT CREW (ON RADIO):
There’s 150 feet, 140, [ALARM]
PETE “WIZZER” WILSON: Committed. FLIGHT CREW (ON RADIO): 10 feet. PETE “WIZZER”
WILSON: Lot of noise. Touchdown on center
line, on the brakes. And off the brake. And stationary. [APPLAUSE] Beautiful. That was so exciting, and to
finally get the first one done and then see it happen just like
it happens in the simulator was just the most special experience
of my entire career, I think. Though it wasn’t
without its stress. You know, at the time, it
didn’t work out exactly perfectly as we intended it to. But we ultimately executed
it safely and professionally. We got the data that we
wanted, and now we’re ready to move on and do more. And I’m looking
forward to the next one because that was pretty special. [BEEP]

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