This afternoon, local congressmen got to 'fly' the most advanced aircraft in the world.
Well, sort of.
Dozens of officials from military tech giant Lockheed Martin and the Pratt & Whitney Engine Facility showed off their F-35 Lightning II cockpit simulator to elected officials and leaders in the Palm Beach County business community on Wednesday.
U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL District 18) and Tom Rooney (R-FL District 17) took to the virtual skies with the machine. The simulator is an exact replica of the cockpit of an F-35, with realistic hand controls and a touch screen control panel. The simulator is surrounded by several large display screens, creating a realistic view as you 'fly' over the terrain.
"As a U.S. Army veteran, I know firsthand the importance of equipping our military with the best equipment and most advanced technology, and I am proud to represent the workers here in West Palm Beach that are critical to continuing to deliver air superiority for our armed forces," said Rep. Mast.
The companies demonstrated the technology at the Pratt Whitney Engine Center in Jupiter.
The F-35 project is the largest defense program in the country and one of the largest in the world. The engines that power it are built right here in Palm Beach County through Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation.
Through the engine facility, the program helps power the economic engines of Florida.
“Florida is a critical manufacturing base for the F-35 and will continue to be in the future. In 2016, the F-35 program supported over 14,700 direct and indirect jobs and created an economic impact of $3 billion," said Jack R. Crisler, vice president of the F-35 Business Development and Strategic Integration for Lockheed Martin.
In 2016, the F-35 program had more than 1,250 suppliers in 45 states and Puerto Rico. It helped create over 146,000 direct and indirect jobs, with an economic impact of over $24 billion worldwide.
"We've gone through ups and downs and to see that parking lot full when I drove in here made me feel so great -- that those jobs are here in Palm Beach County and that they're high tech, highly sustainable jobs for a long time," said Rep. Rooney.
Pratt Whitney officials says the F-35 program is still working towards full production. They expect even more jobs and economic dollars in the coming year.