A bold F-35 pilot carried out a 'bizarre' backward landing on Britain's largest warship

Royal NavyThe first bombs have been dropped from F-35B Lightning II fighter jets conducting trials aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
  • A British F-35 pilot has pulled off what the Royal Navy called a “milestone” manoeuvre, executing a backward landing on the deck of Britain’s largest warship.
  • “It was briefly bizarre to bear down on the ship and see the waves parting on the bow as you fly an approach aft facing,” the test pilot said.

A British F-35 pilot has pulled off what the Royal Navy called a “milestone” manoeuvre, executing a backward landing on the deck of Britain’s largest warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Royal Air Force test pilot Squadron Leader Andy Edgell flew his American-made F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter across the bow of the large British aircraft carrier.

The pilot then brought the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft to a hover over the deck before gently setting it down, the Royal Navy said in a statement Monday. He said the F-35 jump jet “handled beautifully.”

The aviation achievement is intended to give the carrier crew additional options in the event of an emergency. Given the nature of the aircraft, the landing was not radically different from more conventional alternatives.

An F-35 landing on the HMS Queen ElizabethRoyal NavyAn F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter landing on the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The British Royal Navy said this atypical landing was like “driving the wrong way down a one-way street.” Reflecting on the manoeuvre, Edgell said, “It was briefly bizarre to bear down on the ship and see the waves parting on the bow as you fly an approach aft facing.”

“It was also a unique opportunity fly towards the ship, stare at the bridge, and wonder what the captain is thinking,” he added.

This manoeuvre, like the previously executed conventional landings and rolling landings, was part of a nine-week intensive training program that began off the US east coast.

UK navy F-35 F-35B Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrierUK Ministry of DefenceAn F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth on September 25.

Read more: The biggest warship in British history just met the F-35 for the first time

The first landing was carried out September 25, when Royal Navy Cmdr. Nathan Grey landed an F-35B on the deck of the carrier. It marked the first time in eight years that an aircraft had landed on a British carrier. The UK had previously acquired the F-35, and its new carrier set sail last year. The combination of the two was championed as the dawn of a new era for British sea power.

Commodore Andrew Betton, the commander of the UK carrier strike group, called it “a tremendous step forward in reestablishing the UK’s carrier strike capability.”

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