Flying on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is not just for test pilots: The 412th Test Wing’s Airmanship Program allows flight test engineers to also take to the skies.
“The airmanship program is a flight and ground training program for non-flying government engineers,” said Sean Rios, Airmanship Program Manager. “The purpose of the program is to provide basic airmanship knowledge, familiarize them with the local airspace, and to expose new engineers to in-flight experience regarding execution of typical avionics and flight dynamics tests.”
The Airmanship program uses Cessna 172s based at the Aero Club on Edwards to provide a cost-efficient manner along with fellow engineering pilots who provide the training, Rios said.
“The program consists of an airspace orientation flight, private pilot ground school, and a test demonstration flight,” he said. “Students can continue on with an instrument ground school as well as basic visual and instrument flight rule (VFR/IFR) flight training as well.”
An iteration of the Airmanship program was previously employed in previous years, but a younger crop of engineers necessitated a return to the program. The program provides an opportunity for Edwards engineers to be able to gain more understanding of their unique work environment and to further ingrain their role in the Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe.
“This program was revived to increase retention of the scientific and engineering workforce,” said Dan Osburn, 412th TW Technical Director. “It’s a great opportunity to learn the range from a bird’s eye view as well as get acclimated to aircraft flying at Edwards air space.”
This approach to familiarization benefits the Wing as whole in that it increases engineer proficiency and understanding of flight operations, which will eventually benefit the Warfighter.
“The better an engineer understands the air picture; where the pilot flies, bomb range targets, layout of the airspace, along with understanding the maneuvers or tasks they are having the pilot perform, the better engineer can communicate with aircrew what data they need. Everyone wants to do their very best in supporting the warfighter,” Rios said. “Not only does airmanship allow them to better visualize the airspace, cockpit information the pilot is processing, and understanding the complexities of flight test; but it is one of the few things we can provide our engineers that perhaps the private sector cannot.”
One of the program’s first passengers, Chloe Angulo, recently started working as an electronic warfare engineer. She said this experience will benefit her in her duties.
My area of expertise is in electronic warfare, and I believe a flight would relate in terms of test setup, conditions, or methodology,” she said. “When preparing for the execution of a test, these aspects of the test plan can play important roles in how successful we will be in executing the mission.”
Rios said that it is important to attract and retain engineers in a technical workforce, and the various engineering departments on Edwards view it as essential to provide real-world experience.
“In the current recruiting environment it is absolutely essential to provide this type of training to our engineers,” Rios said. “We provide real world experience to our engineers within the test environment that they can relate to in their everyday job in the control room, pre- and post-flight briefings, as well as when they are analyzing data.”
The Airmanship experience is definitely different from working in the private sector, Angulo said.
“This experience differentiates in the sense that we are gaining practical flight knowledge that someone in the private sector might not have access to,” Angulo said. “Not everyone can just fly in the same airspace as the airplanes that you will be testing, so I think this is a major plus.”
Editor’s Note: Edwards Air Force Base flight test engineers interested in the Airmanship program may contact Rob Warner, 775th Test Squadron, at 661-277-4353.