The United States Air Force Test Pilot School welcomed its 41st commandant Aug. 3. Col. Paul Meyer, the first-ever Air Force Reservist and first non-TPS graduate to serve as commandant since Buzz Aldrin, handed the reins over to Col. Lawrence “Lars” Hoffman during a morning ceremony in Hangar 1207, officiated by Brig. Gen. Michael T. Brewer, 412th Test Wing commander.
Hoffman came to Edwards from Beale AFB, Calif., where he served as the 9th Operations Group commander, where he was responsible for the training, planning, and worldwide employment of the Air Force’s entire fleet of U-2S Dragon Lady and RQ-4B Global Hawk high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, and MC-12W Liberty medium altitude reconnaissance Aircraft.
The 9th Operations Group was comprised of eight squadrons and two detachments worldwide, totaling more than 1,000 personnel and assets worth $3.6 billion. While serving as group commander, he administered an annual budget of $27 million.
Hoffman graduated from TPS in 1997 and is a Command Pilot and Experimental Test Pilot with more than 4,500 flight hours. He has flown more than 40 aircraft including the U-2, RQ-4, MC-12, T-38, F-16, F-15 and A-10.
He grew up in the Edwards community and graduated from Desert High School, but he also had the privilege of growing up on the historic Edwards flightline.
“I was at Test Pilot School in first grade. We came down here and watched my dad fly the NF-104. There are pictures of us watching him suit up in full pressure suit,” said Hoffman. “And I’ve got to tell you, to be six or seven years old and watching your dad suit up into a full pressure suit, it’s like watching Superman. Then we went inside and watched it on a tracking camera. I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. So, I spent the rest of my childhood here trying to position myself and prepare for that.”
“I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to come back. It’s great to be back, it’s a homecoming. This is a dream come true,” Hoffman continued. I grew up here, I’m a product of this school system, and I’m proud to say I did alright. I couldn’t be happier.”
It has been 10 years since Hoffman was last at Edwards. Although flight test principles remain the same, the systems being tested have become increasingly complex and present new challenges to the flight test community.
“The next two years are going to be even tougher. The principles haven’t changed in the 68 years that the school has been here. The same test principles remain. What’s changed is the technical complexity of the weapons systems we’re testing,” said Hoffman. “We’re ready to meet those challenges because we are an innovative service and TPS teaches creative thought and innovation.”
During the ceremony, Brewer welcomed Hoffman home to Edwards, where he attended school in first through twelfth grade, graduated from high school and married his wife, Jill. He also reminded Hoffman that he was not selected for the job because of his ties to Edwards, rather he was chosen because he is without a doubt, the right person to serve as commandant.
“Today, we get to welcome home a native son. Lars grew up in Edwards from 1973 to 1984. But, we don’t pick TPS commandants because they’re locals; we pick them because they’re the best we have. Lars is no exception,” said Brewer. “He is a world class leader and he is the right leader at the right time to carry TPS into the future.”