F-35A Apparently Cleared for More Aerobatics During Airshows: New Video Shows A Full Aileron Roll Eventually Added To The Display

May 19 2017 - 11 Comments
By Tom Demerly

Can You Spot What’s New In This F-35A Heritage Flight Demo?

If you are a keen observer of airshow flight demonstration routines then you already know the USAF F-35A has not flown inverted as a part of its demonstration routine during the previous Heritage Flight displays.

Last year at the Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB in Nevada this Author saw F-35A demonstration pilot USAF Major Will Andreotta, call sign “D-Rail”, momentarily approach inverted flight during a pull-out from a high performance pass following the formation flight portion of the Heritage Flight demo. But the F-35A did purposely not fly completely inverted due to administrative restrictions on the aircraft’s demonstration routines.

In the last Heritage Flight of the 2016 airshow season at Nellis AFB this was as close to inverted as the F-35A would fly, close, but not a completely inverted roll. (Image credit: Author)

It would appear some, or perhaps nearly all, of the demonstration flight restrictions have been removed based on this new video of a USAF F-35A Lightning II flying with an F-86 Sabre and a P-38 Lightning during the Heritage Flight demo at the Planes of Fame Airshow in Chino, California on May 6th and 7th 2017.

As you can see in the video, the F-35A does its relatively normal climb out, but then appears to maneuver somewhat more aggressively than was seen in the 2016 demonstration season where “G” load and aerobatic restrictions were imposed.

Most significantly, at the 1:29 point into the video the Heritage Flight formation calls for “break!” and performs its normal horizontal separation. At the final Heritage Flight of the season in 2016 at Nellis AFB the other aircraft in the formation passed one-by-one in review in front of the crowd line and executed a single, slow aileron roll. The F-35A was the only aircraft that did not perform the fully inverted roll, again, likely due to demonstration restrictions at the time.

In this new video, however, at the 1:36 point in the video the F-35 pulls slightly nose-up, then executes a rather smart looking right aileron roll, the first we’ve seen in any Heritage Flight or, for that matter, the first ever USAF F-35A complete aileron roll seen at an airshow.

At 1:36 into this video by Spencer Hughes the F-35 completes a full aileron roll. (screenshot from Spencer Hughes’s YouTube video)

Considered what other combat aircraft can do, an aileron roll is the least the F-35 can do to show a bit of maneuverability.

News outlet Aerospace Daily and Defense Report wrote in a May 17, 2017 story that the F-35A will fly its first aerial demonstration at the Paris Air Show this year, with Lockheed Martin pilots, not U.S. Air Force pilots, performing aerobatics in the skies above Le Bourget Airport.

Aerospace Daily went on to report that the Paris Air Show demonstration by the F-35A “Will showcase the maneuverability of Lockheed’s fifth-generation fighter, and perhaps lay to rest claims that the F-35 cannot match some fourth-generation aircraft in power and performance. The Joint Strike Fighter’s maneuverability was famously called into question in July 2015, when a blogger got his hands on a report in which the aircraft was outclassed by the F-16 in mock aerial combat.”

This new apparent relaxation of flight performance restrictions for the USAF F-35A means the 2017 flight demonstration season will likely be a bit more exciting than ever…



  • Genesis

    Lol its funny for me to see the words F35 and aerobatics in the same sentense…

  • Pablo Escobar

    Did not see anything that the MiG-21 could not do ;)

  • leroy

    I don’t think they will at this years Paris show, but it sure would be nice if they were allowed to fly the fighter’s full 9g flight profile. If not this year – in time. In time. And when it does the show will be spectacular! After all, this is the Thunderbirds next ride.

    With F-35 the U.S. will maintain total and complete air show entertainment dominance (to go along with American military air power total uncontested and unsurpassed air superiority. Along with a number of our NATO allies too. Those purchasing the F-35). Have Power Will Dominate (HPWD)! If I may be so bold allow me to coin that. : )

    • Shane Wilkerson

      9G comes with the 3F upgrade. Most likely won’t see it perform at its full potential until next year.

      • leroy

        I know.

  • Captain Malcom Reynolds

    I could tell they are easing the restrictions some from the above vid. People I know are saying that pilots would choose the f-35 over the f-16 for a dogfight every time –so when the chains come all the way off – it’s going to impress. Frankly people are going to be shocked by its kinetic performance.

  • Deplorable Akbar

    Nice pictures and analysis. Thanks!

  • Trapperpk

    The conventional flying regimen of rolls is a great distraction for what the F-35 can really do! Better that an adversary figures out what the F-35 can do in combat as the adversary falls from the air rather than airshow audience giving its approval.

  • BehindEL

    I was going to go to the Planes of Fame airshow but got sick the night before. Can’t believe I missed that.

  • Pepe Le Cox

    A couple of rolls and 70 degrees climb, another couple of medium G turns, you call this aerobatics? They are far from a good air show russian style!

  • Uniform223