We have investigated the capacity of a well-defined Escherichia coli fimB strain, AAEC350 (a derivative of MG1655), to express type 1 fimbriae under various growth conditions. The expression of type 1 fimbriae is phase-variable due to the inversion of a 314-bp DNA segment. Two tyrosine recombinases, FimB and FimE, mediate the inversion of the phase switch. FimB can carry out recombination in both directions, whereas the current evidence suggests that FimE-catalyzed switching is on-to-off only. We show here that AAEC350 is in fact capable of off-to-on phase switching and type 1 fimbrial expression under aerobic static growth conditions. The phase switching is mediated by FimE, and allows emerging fimbriate AAEC350 to outgrow their non-fimbriate counterparts by pellicle formation. Following inversion of the phase switch, this element can remain phase-locked in the on orientation due to integration of insertion sequence elements, viz. IS1 or IS5, at various positions in either the fimE gene or the phase switch.