March 9, 2013 -- Since the F-35B Lightning II’s arrival to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in November 2012, the new aircraft has started its initial flight operations but otherwise is kept safe in the hangar for most of the day. So, bringing the aircraft into a crowd of thousands was a far off dream until recently.
During MCAS Yuma’s 2013 Airshow held March 9, the first static display of an F-35B Lightning II during an airshow was unveiled to the general public. The aircraft was pulled out of the hangar and staged on the fightline with other aircraft on display, although a fence surrounded it for security precautions.
“It is great they have a display out here because it shows the taxpayers where their money is being spent and is actually being used for a good purpose,” said Barbara Baker, a Yuma winter visitor and a native of The Dalles, Oregon.
Assisting with the unveiling were pilots and aircraft maintainers of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, the Corps’ first operational F-35B Lightning II squadron, who were available throughout the day to meet with attendees and answer their questions. The squadron fielded several queries about the speed and agility of the aircraft as well as trying to figure out the primary differences between the AV-8B Harrier and the F-35B, both short take off/vertical landing aircraft.
“Just having an aircraft on display isn’t enough,” said Maj. Michael Wyrsch, a VMFA-121 F-35B pilot and a native of Silver Spring, Md. “Having someone there to answer their questions shows that we are transparent and that we work for the taxpayers.”
Having the F-35B Lightning II on display not only gives the public a look at the latest aircraft, but also to shows the community that they are an important part of the air station and deserve to know what is going on. VMFA-121’s Commanding Officer, LtCol. Jeffrey Scott, saw this display as a chance to allow local Yuma residents to see, first hand, the aircraft that will be operating in the local area and will eventually replace Yuma’s AV-8B Harrier fleet.
“The entire airshow and all of the aircraft displayed are important to connect the air station and the Marine Corps and what we do in service for our country to the local community that has been supportive of this base and its mission,” stated Scott. “While the F-35 was on display to the general public for the first time, it was important for our local community to see the airplane they hear so much about and that will be flying around the skies of Yuma for many years into the future. This aircraft was built to defend this country and its citizens; it was a good chance for them to see the jet that is a significant portion of our country's defense into the future. The people of Yuma can be proud that the services have started their first operational squadron right here in this city and that they have selected outstanding Marines to usher in this new era of aircraft. It was great for the Green Knights to be able to talk to those who came out to the airshow and it’s a nice reminder for us why we do what we do as Marines.”
VMFA-121 is scheduled to receive up to 16 aircraft by the end of the year and is working towards becoming fully operational by the end of 2017.
With the air show hosting approximately 25,000 attendees this year, the largest community relations event of the year from MCAS Yuma, this was a perfect opportunity to showcase the latest in military aviation combat power to the city of Yuma and its visitors.