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Aviation History as Lightnings Strike

Published: 30 Jun 2016

History was made at RAF Fairford on Wednesday (June 29) when three state-of-the-art F-35B Lightning II's made their first ever transatlantic crossing in order to attend next week's Royal International Air Tattoo.

The fifth generation stealth fighter jets, which are due to enter service with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy in 2018, arrived from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina in the US. Outside the Cotswold base, a large crowd of aircraft enthusiasts gathered to watch the historic landing.

One of the F-35B aircraft was from the Royal Air Force and was piloted by Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols. It was accompanied by two US Marine Corps F-35Bs, piloted by Lt Col Richard Rusnok and Maj Jack Cronan.

The F-35B will take part in the Air Tattoo's flying display on all three days of the airshow and will also fly alongside the Red Arrows and two RAF Typhoons in a unique joint flypast each day. On the Friday it will take part in a refuelling demo with a US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules. 

Among those who welcomed the pilots on their arrival were Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, RAF Charitable Trust Chairman Air Marshal Sir Kevin Leeson and RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises' (RAFCTE) Chairman Alan Smith (pictured below)

RAFCTE Chief Executive Andy Armstrong said he was delighted to see the F-35Bs touch down at RAF Fairford and was looking forward to seeing the aircraft make their international display debut next week.

The F-35B's display on Friday, July 8 marks the latest in a long list of legendary military aircraft that have made their UK debut at the Air Tattoo. These have included the F-14 Tomcat in 1976, the MiG-23 in 1991, the Typhoon in 1995, the V-22 Osprey in 2006 and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force Kawasaki P1 in 2015.

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 Racing Driver

“This is the best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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