Nearly 400 friends, family and members of the flight test community gathered to celebrate June 9 as the historic United States Air Force Test Pilot School graduated the 24 test professionals of Class 11B.
Air Force Flight Test Center and 412th Test Wing leadership, as well as representatives from sister services and nations around the world were in attendance, celebrating the culmination of an intense 48-week long curriculum that transformed the Air Force’s top pilots, engineers and navigators into elite test professionals.
Dr. Bruce Murphy, Air University Academic Affairs vice president, was also in attendance and awarded Masters of Science degrees in flight test engineering to the graduating students.
In attendance, welcoming the latest members to the elite community of flight test was America’s most famous test pilot and guest speaker, retired Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager.
While addressing the filled-to-capacity crowd, Yeager spoke about his personal experiences at Edwards, in combat and as a test pilot, and even spoke about the events leading up to his famous flight in the Bell X-1, which allowed the former maintainer to be the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Before wrapping up his speech, Yeager congratulated the Test Pilot School graduates and urged them to be careful and remain vigilant.
“I want to congratulate the guys who are graduating from the Test Pilot School. It is a marvelous world to graduate into and it’s an interesting world,” said Yeager. “The only thing you have to do is be careful, because it’s a dangerous field.”
Class 11B graduated 12 experimental test pilots, 10 flight test engineers, an experimental test pilot for remotely piloted aircraft, and a combat systems officer. In addition to service members in the United States Air Force, graduates represented diverse backgrounds, which included students from the U.S. Marine Corps, Canada, Singapore and even a DOD civilian.
“I tell everyone who will listen that this is the most difficult and challenging advanced flight school in the world,” said Col. Noel Zamot, USAF TPS commandant. “Each student has completed over 2,500 hours of academics, which includes approximately 120 hours of in-flight training. As a final graduation exercise, students demonstrate learning from across the curriculum by planning and executing real world test management projects.”
In addition to serving as a graduation exercise for students, the test management projects provide students with a unique opportunity to make a significant, real-world contribution in the world of flight test. The four TMPs completed by Class 11B include HAVE TRON 11, Project SPINAL TAP, PAVE SWIFT and HAVE POSIT.
HAVE TRON 11 served as a limited demonstration of an electronic intelligence pod, which was flown on an F-16 and recorded data from a ground based radar while performing operationally representative maneuvers.
Project SPINAL TAP investigated C-12 rudder hinge movement and in particular, a rudder force lightening anomaly of interest to the Test Pilot School, the Air Force and the FAA. The vertical fin of the aircraft was tufted and videotaped during flight, so that airflow properties on the rudder could be determined.
PAVE SWIFT was an interagency collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security to determine the capabilities of a system designed to prevent small, commercially available aircraft from penetrating United States air space.
HAVE POSIT supported the development of the Automatic Air Collision Avoidance System. The project gathered data on automated avoidance maneuvers and the actual operation of its data link. Results will be passed to the 416th Flight Test Squadron for subsequent flight test projects that will ultimately save lives.
Class leader, Maj. Robert Russell, acknowledged just how valuable flight test is to the warfighter and how the knowledge gained from the Test Pilot School can lead to contributions in the flight test community, which have the ability to make a life and death difference.
“What we do here today will mean life or death to some boy in junior high we will never meet. The weapons we field, the technology we develop … Someday because of our efforts, it may mean life or death to that son or daughter. That 18-year-old warfighter in Afghanistan today might live to come home to his family tomorrow because of capabilities that were developed here yesterday,” said Russell.
He continued by talking about the class’ desire to answer the call of duty, give back and preserve national strength. Russell made it clear that the contributions, which are made today are only possible because of the incredible individuals who sacrificed and served in the generations before, and the class’ intentions to continue that legacy of service for the future generations.
“We as a class seem to have a real sense of legacy. I think we all willingly acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of giants. What got us here is our love of country, sense of duty and legacy that we’ve inherited from greats like General Yeager who have gone before,” said Russell. “We can do our part to ensure that our nation stays strong militarily, technologically and economically. So we can give back, do our duty and leave a legacy that will bless future generations.”
Brig. Gen. Robert C. Nolan II, AFFTC commander, closed the ceremony with a congratulatory message and offered advice to the Test Pilot School graduates.
“Congratulations and thank you so much for your service and your sacrifice, there will be more of both to come. Plus, the adventure of being a part of this incredible profession, learn all that you can about this profession and about those who have gone before you because chances are someone has done the dangerous thing you’re about to do,” said Nolan. “Learn, study, pay attention, talk to your peers, and do all that you can. They’re always willing, like General Yeager, to offer their advice.”
He further advised the graduates to never forget their operational and combat experiences, as they both bring a unique and important perspective to developmental test and evaluation. Nolan urged them to never be afraid of offering an operational opinion. He also reminded the 24 test professionals to remember that flight test is a team sport and to remain humble.
Each graduate will fulfill an important role in flight test, as they have been trained to know the entire test process and will lead people, bring experts together, and function as the glue and grease of the test team to ensure successful flight test operations.
Class 11B’s graduating class:Â
Capt. Bradley L. Balling, engineer, USAF
Capt. Christopher W. Baughman, RPA pilot, USAF
Capt. Carl F. Beckey, Multi-E pilot, USAF
Maj. Bellamy Chia, pilot, Singapore
Capt. Michael A. Ciampa, engineer, USAF
Jeremy Cookson, Engineer, DOD
Maj. Jesus M. Cosme, multi-E pilot, USAF
Capt. Brian M. Fredrickson, engineer, USAF
Maj. Adam E. Goodpasture, multi-E pilot, USAF
Capt. Tucker R. Hamilton, fighter pilot, USAF
Capt. Jason Heersche, Engineer, USAF
Capt. William J. Keichel, engineer, USAF
Capt. Daniel R. Kimball, EWO, USAF
Capt. Joshua Kutryk, pilot, Canada
Capt. John D. McShane, engineer, USAF
Capt. Thomas F. Meagher, multi-E pilot, USAF
Capt. Melanie W. Owen, engineer, USAF
Maj. Casey E. Richardson, fighter pilot, USAF
Capt. Scott Rinella, engineer, USAF
Capt. Douglas Rosenstock, fighter pilot, USMC
Maj. Robert M. Russell (class leader), fighter pilot, USAF
Maj. Alec T. Spencer, fighter pilot, USAF
Capt. Roman T. Underwood, engineer, USAF
Capt. Alex C. Wolfard, fighter pilot, USAF