Riding the Lightning over the Atlantic: ‘Awesome experience’

Riding the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II all the way from the US to the Netherlands was ‘an awesome experience’, according to major Pascal ‘Smiley’ Smaal, who actually flew one of the state-of-the-art jets on Monday 23 May. Smaal is one of four Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) pilots now current on the F-35. All four have joined the aircraft for this trip home – which involves a flying airshow debut.

The Lightnings arrived in difficult weather conditions, with low clouds, cold winds and occasional showers drenching Leeuwarden during the day. The weather in Patuxent River, where the Dutch started their Transatlantic flight, wasn’t much better.

The pilots and groundcrew were a little concerned about their two ‘babies’, “But they did great”, says Smaal. An hour or so after landing at Leeuwarden, the jets were put away in hardened aircraft shelters.

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)

The perception flights over both Leeuwarden and Volkel airbases will start on Thursday 26 May, with other tests also to be performed over the next three weeks.

On 10 and 11 June, the F-35s and their pilots will star at the Leeuwarden airshow, marking the first time the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II appears at an airshow outside the US.

While RNLAF officials keep their mouths shut about an actual appearance in the flying display, Airheadsfly.com has learned that this appearance is already being prepared and that the Lightning II will indeed present itself in the skies over Leeuwarden. Get set for a large crowd during the airshow.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming and editing © Vincent Kok – Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image: Major Pascal ‘Smiley’ Smaal. (Image © Vincent Kok)

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)