Meanwhile, At Eglin Air Force Base…

In the background, sewing machines hum and scanners buzz, causing a palpable sense of celebration to fill the air at the pilot fit facility as a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force pilot stepped forward to be outfitted with his essential gear. Captain Ryosuke Sugimoto donned his newly tailored helmet to represent his nation and the collaborative spirit of the F-35 program.

The occasion was marked by leadership from the 33rd Fighter Wing, Joint Program Office, and Lockheed Martin Corporation, who gathered to celebrate a significant milestone: the 1,000th F-35 pilot receiving his flight helmet and survival gear on May 22.

“We fit pilots nearly every day, and I’ve been in this seat for over ten years, so this milestone has been eagerly awaited,” said Malcolm Kennedy, Lockheed Martin PFF lead.

“For the entire team, it’s a major milestone. For the wing and the foreign military sales customer, it shows the teamwork – we’ve all grouped together and made it happen.”

Still badass, but not quite so intimidating looking here.

Meticulous Tailoring

Ensuring each pilot is perfectly equipped involves meticulous steps akin to tailoring a custom suit. The PFF Collins Aerospace fitters conduct face and head measurements for the mask and helmet, known as the ‘above-the-neck’ fitting. They scan the pilot’s head, input the measurements into their database, and request the necessary sizes. The gear is then prepared for day two of the fitting, which includes an optical alignment to ensure the helmet’s HMDS is correctly set up.

“For below-the-neck pilot flight equipment, Survitec takes 15 measurements,” said Thomas Swaim, LMCO senior field engineer. “With those measurements, we predict the size and then have the pilot try on the gear. We check them sitting down with their G-suit to make sure it fits correctly. The jacket’s sleeves must be the correct length and comfortable. Once validated, we order the gear through the Survitec system, Agile, which is sent to a center in Ohio to be fulfilled, taking about ten days for completion.”

The PFF, established in 2010, was the first facility to outfit F-35 pilots training at Eglin, among four others in the country. Pioneering these operations, the program faced various challenges en route to this milestone.