First in Flight

First in Flight


Every new aircraft needs a test site, whether you’re the Wright Brothers or the Marine Corps getting ready to roll out the F-35B joint-strike-fighter aircraft. Long before the F-35B was in operation, Sundt was helping the U.S. government create a state-of-the-art pilot training facility for it at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. The F-35B is the principal aircraft supporting Marine Corps reconnaissance and combat missions around the world. It has a short takeoff, vertical landing variant and stealth technology.


The first project was a flight simulation facility. It uses applied instruction and realistic training scenarios to train Marine aviators in takeoff and landings; basic, precision, formation and night flying; and instrumentation, navigation and air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The facility houses six permanent F-35B simulators; a deployable mission rehearsal training area; and briefing/debriefing rooms, mission planning rooms and classrooms.


Next, the team built a 198,756-square-foot landing field consisting of two simulated aircraft carrier landing decks; an aircraft direct fueling station; air traffic control tower; air operations space; three separate helicopter landing deck replicas; a fire/maintenance building; a temporary F-35B hangar; and connecting roads and infrastructure. The team placed 3,400 cubic yards of high-temperature concrete on the simulated aircraft carrier flight decks, designed to withstand the extreme heat generated by the F-35B’s jet engines during takeoffs and landings.


By the time the aircraft was ready for practical use, so were the Marines, thanks to these new training facilities.


Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC)


Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Simulator Facility