Fun Fact Friday: F-35B vertical take-off and landing

(© Tosaka/Wikimedia Commons)

(© Tosaka/Wikimedia Commons)

Did you know that the experimental F-35B fighter plane is capable of taking off and landing without a runway? It’s true!

While typical planes need to get a “running start” to achieve enough speed in order to take off, the F-35B (created by Lockheed Martin) is different. It has a unique feature known as VTOL, which stands for “vertical take-off and landing”.

The way this works is both simple and surprising. The aircraft’s jet engines are capable of swiveling in their mounts, allowing them to face down directly at the ground, while the plane stays at its normal horizontal position. The plane’s engines then propel it directly (but slowly) into the sky. This movement perfectly mimics the takeoff of another, more familiar vertical aircraft, the helicopter. When the plane is ready to land, the process is reversed, and the aircraft descends slowly back down to the ground.

This ability was first tested in March of 2013, and while it is not considered a combat capability (one might imagine it would make an easy, slow moving target), and will only be used for a convenient way to park the plane when it needs to be moved, it’s definitely a fascinating and futuristic thing to behold!

Want to see VTOL in action? Check out the video below!

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