For 68 years, the United States Air Force Test Pilot School has transformed top pilots, engineers and navigators into test pilots and flight test engineers with a commitment to staying on the forefront of emerging technologies; developing cutting-edge technologies for the Air Force, sister services and U.S. allies.
The school’s 48-week master’s program includes a rigorous combination of flying and academics covering performance, flying qualities, systems and test management. With the new classroom renovations, the school’s curriculum will be well supported by some of the most advanced classroom technologies available.
“This school is teaching the subjects that are at the very leading-edge of technology in the United States and its Air Force. We believe the facility needs to support that curriculum and support those subjects. We continue to upgrade our facility to support the quality education the students are getting here,” said Col. Lawrence Hoffman, USAF TPS commandant.
Renovations included removing the stage at the front of the classroom to provide instructors with more space. Lighting was upgraded to include zone dimming to improve presentation quality and controls were installed in the instructor’s lectern. Additional controls in the lectern were added for the projector, projection screen and audio system.
A six camera DVR system was installed, allowing lectures to be recorded from multiple angles. Also mounted in the ceiling are two microphones to record the audio.
Additional equipment for the classroom includes a ceiling-mounted remote controlled projection screen and a ceiling-mounted high-definition projector. A 70-inch wall-mounted flat screen monitor and two Promethean ActivBoard 500 Pro smart boards are mounted on the wall at the front of the classroom. A Yamaha sound system was also installed to improve the audio quality for students.
“The technology in the old classrooms really was not up-to-date. It wasn’t really supporting some of the new concepts and new ways of teaching we have introduced to the curriculum, for example talking about cyberspace and space subjects. There are tools out there like the smart boards that allow us to show material in a different, more effective way for these difficult subjects,” said Hoffman.
With the last major renovations approximately 15 years ago, TPS decided now was the perfect time to update the classroom with state-of-the-art technology that will support the curriculum for years to come.
“We thought it was time to both update and upgrade the classrooms. We began working on this in 2010 and the idea is that this classroom will support the cutting-edge curriculum and take us to 2020 and beyond,” said Hoffman.
To help the school make informed decisions about integrating state-of-the-art technology into their classrooms, they looked to studies outside the school for emerging Air Force trends.
“We looked outside the school to see where the Air Force is headed. There are a lot of studies looking at the future of remotely piloted aircraft, cyberspace and space. Aircraft, weapons, sensors – we are looking at the megatrends on where we are going with the technology of the Air Force. Remotely piloted aircraft is one area that we believe is going to grow greatly in the coming decades. We want to make sure our curriculum, facilities and technologies support that growth,” said Hoffman.
“For example, right now we’re working on a surrogate RPA project. A Learjet and our [Variable Stability In-Flight Simulator Test Aircraft] F-16 can be flown from inside the school with people sitting in the aircraft watching it be flown. We are making the move today to stay on the very leading edge of that technology,” he continued.
Currently, only one classroom is complete, with renovations on the second classroom expected to be finished in time for Class 13A to begin their time at TPS. Upon completion, it will mirror the classroom located next-door, which is currently occupied by Class 12B.
The updated classrooms were designed to not only better support the curriculum and Air Force trends, but give students the necessary resources to better prepare them for their futures in test and development.
“We are teaching the students who are going to test the brand new weapons systems and modifications to current weapons systems. They need to be prepared to do that. Our Airmen are out there in harm’s way and we want them to have the absolute best equipment, capabilities and technology. The school has to stay out in front of advancing technologies to make sure our students are prepared to conduct testing and development that stays ahead of whatever future threats there might be,” said Hoffman.