While I am struggling to find the time to complete and pack the Beta version of the virtual Lightning II, in the real world the fifth F-35 had its first flight. It is the BF-3 (that is the third STOVL prototype), and as you can see from the picture, it is completely painted in dark grey - which I assume it will be the standard livery for all the prototypes.
So, since the AA-1 has been retired, now there are four F-35s flying: AF-1 (CTOL), BF-1, BF-2 and BF-3. BF-1 and BF-2 are currently in Patuxent River and are undergoing a series of test flights that will culminate in the first actual STOVL flights - see http://www.jsf.mil/ for some cool hi-res pictures and additional details (including videos of the first lift-fan in-flight engagements).
As for the FSX projects... well, as I said I am struggling to find the time to work on it.
For those who are curious, the major differences from the beta will be:
- an updated visual model with more detailed 3d geometry (especially in the landing gear and refuel receptacle aeras) and more detailed textures - with slightly different coloring.
- a better flight model - with special thanks to Roberto Leonardo who provided some substantial tweaks to the .air file. The plane has now a more realistic turn performance, and a more "neutral" behaviour, in attempt to emulate the effects of an advanced FCC/FCS system.
- more VC functionality: it is now possible to change the functions of the four areas of the MFD by picking from the menus on the bottom. At present, HSI (with map mode), RADAR/MAP (with terrain mode), FCS modes are working (but do not expect anything too fancy - I've extensively reused FSX code for those) - ENGine, (mock) WEaPon, COMmunication, ICWS and FUEL modes are planned. SWAP and MENU button should be functional, too.
The MFD functionality is the thing that needs more work... may be 10-12 hours. Hopefully I will complete it in the next weekend.Last I need to apologize again to anyone who has sent me an email in the past few days - my email is working but I did not find the time to reply, even to messages that are quite important for the project.