ABOARD THE USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER — Visitors to this aircraft carrier walked out the door to their perch overlooking the flight deck, eyes struggling to adjust to the sunlight, and scanned the sky for a black dot off the stern of the ship.
After a high-pitched whine, the black dot blossomed into a hulking F-35 joint strike fighter. It closed in on the vast ship, thumped onto the deck, grabbed the arresting wire and lurched to a complete stop in just over 300 feet. While the visitors' ears were protected with both earplugs and over-the-ear headphones, their skulls rattled with the roar of the jet's engine.
As quickly as the thunderous jet had broken the stillness of a sunny day in the Atlantic about 100 miles off the coast of Virginia, it was quiet again, replaced by the yells of sailors on the flight deck, preparing the F-35 for its next takeoff as it neared the end of its second test at sea.
Cmdr. Tony Wilson, who flew during both development tests of the plane, was living a childhood dream as a test pilot for the F-35. Still, that didn't take away the inevitable moment of "sheer doubt" he had when he became the first person to land the Navy's variant on the aircraft carrier Nimitz last November.Read more on WashingtonExaminer.com