F-35 STOVL Vertical Landing

The award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions in advancing the art and science of aviation. This year, Graham’s contribution to the F-35 Lightning II programme, the largest defence programme in the world, took the prize just days after Graham retired from flight testing after 24 years with the company.

Graham joined the F-35 Lightning II programme in 2002 after 16 years testing Hawks and Harriers for BAE Systems at Dunsfold. Graham relocated to Fort Worth, Texas as the lead short take off vertical landing (STOVL) test pilot, and then moved with the aircraft to the military test site at Patuxent River, Maryland.  Graham was instrumental in shaping the aircraft’s flight control system and contributing numerous innovative ideas to the design of the aircraft.

Earlier this year Graham took to the skies and successfully completed the first ever vertical landing of the STOVL variant.  Remarking on this achievement Graham commented “The first flight of any aircraft is undoubtedly the highlight in every test pilots career.  Mine was when we flew with the STOVL lift system engaged for the first time.  First flights of any aircraft are full of uncertainties, and we had the additional complexities of a STOVL aircraft where you are operating in an area with partial support from aerodynamics and the remainder from jet thrust.  It was remarkable that the aircraft felt so solid throughout this initial testing phase.”

Graham has been pivotal in ensuring BAE Systems delivered a series of critical milestones on the F-35 Lightning II flight test programme.  Graham has brought his STOVL expertise to the programme, having had many years’ experience with the Harrier.  In 1975, he was awarded the first of three Queen’s Commendations for Valuable Service in the air when he recovered a stricken RAF Harrier following a serious hydraulic system failure.

Graham’s contribution to the F-35 Lightning II programme has helped to ensure that a whole series of flight test firsts were completed successfully, from first conventional flight of the F35B to initial STOVL lift system engaged flight, and finally to short takeoffs and slow and vertical landings which prove the fundamental ability of the F35B to operate from ships and austere sites.  BAE Systems flight testing of the F35B will continue for several years in the USA as the envelope is expanded to include austere site and ship operations of this revolutionary aircraft.

From the age of 15, the sky was no limit to Graham as he made his first flight in an Auster Autocrat, a 1940’s British built monoplane.  From that day forward Graham would continue to make a whole series of first class achievements throughout his career in aviation, becoming an RAF test pilot in 1978 and joining BAE Systems in 1986. He has tested most British and a sprinkling of US fast jets from the late 70’s, but the F35B has been the biggest challenge and the most rewarding programme.

Paul Stone, Director of Flight Operations at BAE Systems remarked “Graham really has made an outstanding contribution to military test flying.  In a career spanning 31 years of flight testing for the RAF and BAE Systems it is fantastic to see those efforts being recognised by such a prestigious award.”

About the F-35 Lightning II programme
BAE Systems is teamed with Northrop Grumman and prime contractor Lockheed Martin on the F-35 Lightning II programme. BAE Systems leads the manufacture of the aft fuselage and vertical and horizontal tails and wing tips at Samlesbury in Lancashire.  BAE Systems is also responsible for the fuel, crew escape, life support, and prognostics and health management systems as well as support for UK aircraft carrier integration.

About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is a global defence, security and aerospace company with approximately 107,000 employees worldwide. The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services.  In 2009 BAE Systems reported sales of £22.4 billion (US$ 36.2 billion).

For further information, please contact:
Andrea Kay, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 1772 853508  Mob: + 44 (0) 7793 423647

Simon Shrouder, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 1772 856525 Mob: + 44 (0) 7793 423453