Arrivals & Departures The plane seat that costs $28,000 an hour

F35 at the Avalon airshow.
Picture: David Nicolson
Photo of Geoffrey Thomas

The next time you complain about the cost of your seat to London think about the cost of the seat on Australia’s next-generation super fighter, the F-35.

Based on the total program cost and the number of flight hours it will fly, the cost of the seat on the F-35 is $28,000 per hour.

But for that princely sum you get lots of neat stuff and about 100 ways to get rid of folks you don’t like.

And guess what — they will not know it’s coming.

The F-35 will go places other jet fighters cannot go safely and it will shoot down the enemy before it knows it’s there.

The F-35 is dubbed a “fifth generation” fighter and has stealth capability and high-tech sensors, giving the pilot 360-degree awareness of the battlefield and the ability to communicate and share information with other battlefield systems and platforms.

This combination puts the F-35 in a class of its own … a bit like flying first class by yourself.

In fact, the only aircraft that can come close to the F-35’s capability is the F-22 Raptor, and that jet is in service only with the US Air Force.

On display recently for the first time in Australia at the Avalon Airshow, the F-35 is six times more effective in air-to-air combat and eight times more effective in air-to-ground missions than planes it will replace.

And the F-35 has a suite of electronics that IT geeks dream about, including a 360-degree helmet that allows the pilot to see the enemy no matter where they are.

In one test, the plane’s high-tech radar was able to track 19 of 23 targets in three seconds and all 23 in nine seconds.

The pilot’s helmet is a piece of Star Wars-style wizardry.

It projects the outside world inside the pilot’s visor by combining six advanced infra-red digital cameras on the jet and other sensors — such as radar — into a seamless 360-degree spherical panorama, all in real time.

In a first, it makes the F-35 itself invisible to the pilot. If the pilot looks down, they will only see the ground — not their legs, which would be an interesting experience for an airline passenger.

Overlaid on the view is information from the weapons and flight-control systems.

Perhaps this is the future of in-flight entertainment?

Picture at top: An F35 at the Avalon Airshow. Picture: David Nicolson


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