Lt. Col. Brian W. Bann, a U.S. Marine Corps pilot, just became the first person to cross the 1,000 hour mark at the stick of the world’s most advanced fighter jet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Bann is currently assigned to the Defense Contract Management Agency at Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, where he’s qualified to work as an acceptance pilot for all three variants of the F-35. The F-35A is a conventional takeoff fighter utilized primarily by the U.S. Air Force, the F-35B is a Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant used primarily by the Marine Corps, and the F-35C is meant for duty aboard aircraft carriers.
Bann crossed the 1,000 hour mark, appropriately enough, in the Marine Corps’ F-35B while delivering a new jet to Marine Aircraft Group 13 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, last month. All together, the Marine pilot has over 3,000 hours logged in various fighter aircraft. However, Bann isn’t the first person to hit the 1,000 hour mark in the cockpit of an F-35; that title goes to David “Doc” Nelson, who hit that mark in 2017 working as a civilian test pilot for Lockheed Martin.
Bann was first commissioned in 2000 and was among the Marine Corps’ first ever F-35 pilots. He began training on the platform in 2013. Prior to the F-35, Bann flew another vertical take-off jet, the AV-8B Harrier II, before moving on to the Air Force’s workhorse “Viper,” the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is America’s top of the line fighter jet, building off of decades of development. The fighter was designed from the ground up for stealth and data fusion, which when combined make the F-35 one of the most deadly combat aircraft ever to take to the sky. Its stealth design allows the F-35 to operate within contested airspace, and its advanced sensor suite and data fusion capabilities give its pilots an unprecedented 360-degree view of the battle space, thanks in no small part to the $400,000-a-piece augmented reality helmet its pilots wear.
Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 490 F-35s to 21 different American and allied air bases around the world. To date, fewer than 1,000 pilots on the entire planet are F-35 qualified, racking up some 240,000 flight hours between them thus far. F-35s are considered combat operational by 8 military services around the world, including the U.S. Marine Corps.
Feature image courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps