After cost overruns, a series of delays, and almost a decade of hype, the F-35 Lighting finally performed a vertical landing for the first time. Yesterday at 1 P.M., after descending from a 150-foot-high hover, the test plane touched down on the tarmac at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. This is a significant step forward for the F-35, as its vertical takeoff and landing capability are crucial to the fighter's role as a replacement for the aging Harrier jet.
To perfect the vertical and short takeoff and landing ability of the F-35 Lightning II, test pilots have been taking off and landing at progressively shorter distances and slower speeds, building up to the final, true vertical boost. And today, engine manufacturers Pratt and Whitney released video of the slowest, shortest takeoff and landing yet, in which the jet cruises to a stop at 130 knots.