Four pilots and two alternates were recently selected from Luke Air Force Base to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and the U.S. Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Md., after a nearly nine-month selection process.
“This was my first application,” said Maj. Charles Trickey, 62nd Fighter Squadron. “I’ve dreamed about doing this. I have always wanted to be a test pilot.”
Trickey and fellow Luke pilots Capt. Brent Ritzke, 308th FS, Capt. Lucas Kippert, 21st FS, and Capt. Thomas Tauer, 56th Operations Group, were selected from an elite group of Air Force pilots who met the stringent standards for selection to the prestigious schools.
“Only those candidates who meet the strict operational and academic criteria even make it to the board,” said Col. Noel Zamot, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School commandant. “You need to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in engineering, math, physics, etc. as well as a top-notch operational record to even compete.”
The school develops “the next generation of test professionals for (the) nation and the world,” according to Zamot.
“TPS takes the best aviators and engineers in the world (and) makes them better,” he said. “Then (we) give them the hugely challenging task of developing tomorrow’s combat capability.”
Zamot said pilots from Luke typically are among the best-trained in the Air Force and often excel while attending the 11-month course.
“The pilots from Luke consistently demonstrate why they are at the very tip of the spear in the CAF (Combat Air Force),” Zamot said. “They do very, very well at the TPS selection boards. I think that is a testament to their airmanship, professionalism and desire to learn. They clearly demonstrate the intellectual pedigree and operational excellence required to succeed at the school and in the world of weapons systems development.”
Trickey, an Air Force Academy graduate in engineering, was selected to partake in an exchange program with the U.S. Navy and will attend the Navy Test Pilot School. The Air Force also has an exchange program with foreign countries such as France and England.
The pilots submitted their packages in June 2011, but had to wait until October to hear if they had received an invitation to interview.
“It was a weeklong interview process,” said Capt. Matthew Olson, one of two alternates for the TPS from Luke. “The interview consists of flying three unfamiliar aircraft.