Thunderstruck at the 100th F-35 Ceremony
Entering the F-35 Lightning II factory in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday, Dec. 13, you’d never know a historical ceremony was about to take place – aircraft were still in flow, mechanics were at their stations and the aisles were bustling with carts carrying parts and components. The first hints came with each step toward the north end of the factory, as the sound of 80’s rock music slowly became more prominent. As you got closer, it became apparent that the music was streaming from behind a towering black curtain, masking a ceremony fit for thousands of dedicated employees.
Dressed in their usual “wear red Friday” attire, employees began to assemble outside the curtain, excited to share their support for our troops, and their passion and pride for the F-35. As the curtains were pulled back, employees streamed in to take their seats. It was time to inaugurate the AF-41, better known as the 100th F-35.
The employees were also joined by guests and representatives from Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force and Luke Air Force Base, who came to celebrate the remarkable F-35 team responsible for developing, manufacturing and testing this world-class stealth fighter.
Beginning promptly at high noon, the employees and guests stood from their seats to pay tribute to the stars and stripes while the harmonious sounds of the Texas Boys Choir led the group in our National Anthem. Remarks followed from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ Executive Vice President Orlando Carvalho and Fighter Country Partnership Chairman of the Board David Scholl, who both reiterated that the accomplishments of this program would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the entire F-35 team.
Forty-one F-35 production employees were then invited to the ceremony stage, while the Texas Boys Choir serenaded the audience with a moving patriotic medley of songs. When complete, the F-35 production team members lined up in front of the crowd and ceremoniously passed a folded American flag from right to left. Once the flag reach the end of the line, Chris Felten, an F-35 production employee and Veteran, presented it to Brig. Gen. Michael Rothstein, Commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base. This commemorative flag has since flown on AF-41’s first flight and will forever live at Luke AFB.
Following the moving flag ceremony, Commander, Air Education and Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, Gen. Robin Rand spoke to the team: “Today, you are my airmen for what you do for our Air Force and our partner nations. Let’s not forget why we’re here. We’re here to keep your kids and grandkids safe and the F-35 is going to be one of the neat machines we’re going to be able to do that with. So God Bless you.”
To conclude the ceremony, Lorraine Martin, executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 program, provided the final remarks to the team:
“We often use words like stealth and 5th generation and sensor fusion to describe the F-35 and what it can do. But those attributes wouldn’t be possible without your craftsmanship, your ingenuity, your expertise and above all your commitment. And, I know this is a commitment that extends beyond the walls of Air Force Plant 4. The entire F-35 industry team shares these qualities and demonstrates them daily. This day would not be possible without you.”
As Martin closed out her speech, she proclaimed, “And now, it is my special privilege to unveil AF-41, the 100th F-35. Ladies and gentleman, this is your F-35.” And without skipping a beat, AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” radiated from the loud speakers, the audience erupted in applause, and the door of the F-35 Lightning II factory lifted to showcase AF-41 for all to see.
While the efforts of this F-35 team are immense, and their contributions to the first 100 F-35s will forever be written into history, this is just the beginning.
December 20, 2013
- On Friday, Dec. 13, we unveiled the 100th F-35, known as AF-41, at a ceremony for employees, partners and customers.
- AF-41 is a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft, and it will be the first of 144 F-35s delivered to Luke Air Force Base (AFB) in Glendale, Ariz.
- More than 2,000 employees attended the ceremony, in addition to representatives from the U.S. Air Force and Luke Air Force Base.