FighterSweep Fans, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the F-35 program and the associated topics. This piece we ran across is going to be a bit different, as it deals directly with the pilot training aspects. Even more unique is the fact U.S. Navy Reserve Lieutenant Kory DeFore designed the course he ultimately had to complete in order to fulfill his duties as a contract pilot for Lockheed-Martin.
In the TV show Undercover Boss, executives work on the front lines of their companies to get a better sense of what employees and customers think of the business. In Kory DeFore’s case, he swapped roles from teacher to student when he entered the rigorous F-35 Lightning II training program that he helped build. DeFore’s job as a contract instructor pilot is teaching U.S. and international service personnel to fly the F-35. Now a student in the course he teaches, DeFore took to the skies in an F-35 for the first time in March when he flew as a Navy Reservist for Strike Fighter Squadron 101 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The experience, he says, gave him a new outlook as an instructor.
DeFore always wanted to be a pilot and didn’t have a backup plan for his career. He caught the flying bug at an early age listening to an uncle’s stories from his service flying A-6s. After college, DeFore piloted F-18s for a decade as a naval aviator flying on and off aircraft carriers for combat missions around the world. Following his separation from active duty, DeFore took on his current role as a Navy Reservist and a Lockheed Martin instructor pilot. When he arrived at the Eglin Air Force Base Integrated Training Center in 2012, he was one of a handful of F-35 instructors and the Navy squadron had yet to start flying the aircraft.
Fast forward four years and now more than 250 pilots and 2,500 maintainers from six nations have graduated from the F-35 Training System coached by DeFore and his colleagues, and the number of students in training is at an all-time high.