The history of aviation is full of legendary pilots, which include test pilots such as Chuck Yeager and some of the men chosen to be part of the Mercury program in the early days of the space program.
Luke Air Force Base has three pilots who will take to the skies and test a variety of aircraft, much like Air Force pilots before them.
Capts. Corey Florendo, 309th Fighter Squadron C Flight commander, Adam Hafez, 308th FS Flight commander and John Trombetta, 21st FS instructor pilot, have been selected to attend Test Pilot School, a course that lasts a year at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
This accomplishment is a long and difficult process.
“The selection process is rather complicated,” Florendo said. “First, to qualify you must have a bachelor of science degree in mathematics, physics or engineering. This requirement is due to the fact that test pilot school is essentially a master-level course in aeronautical engineering. Air University grants the graduates of the course a master’s degree. The candidate also has to meet certain qualifications with respect to flying, such as being an instructor with a certain number of hours.”
The application process is lengthy and requires a great deal of information.
“Applications are submitted once a year, usually in the May/June timeframe, and consists of a narrative of why you should be selected as a test pilot, copies of all previous aircraft check-rides, also known as the Form 8, which show your competency as a pilot,” Hafez said. “A resume of flying experience is also required and up to three letters of recommendation, one of which must be from your supervisor. The other two letters are the applicant’s option and often include current and former test pilots or current or former wing leadership.”
The applicant must pass an initial screening committee in order to go to Edwards AFB for a week of interviews, flying and testing aircraft the candidate isn’t used to such as a T-38, C-12 and a glider, Florendo said.
“Our interview scores are combined with the score of our initial application package and a selection is made,” he said. “The time from the initial announcement message to being selected is about eight months.”
Hafez said other qualifications are required before applying, such as a minimum of one year as an aircraft commander in a manned major weapons system and as a qualified instructor pilot in the weapons system, or a minimum of 750 hours in an airframe.
The next year will be academically intense and involve flying a plethora of aircraft.
“We fly just about every fighter in the American inventory, as well as a few foreign MiGs and other aircraft such as a helicopter,” Florendo said. “Some guys even get to fly the Goodyear blimp. It’s all designed to give pilots experience in how different aircraft fly.”
In all, Hafez said it is a special experience to be able to attend the test pilot school.
“I feel honored and fortunate to be selected for Test Pilot School,” he said. “Selection to TPS is very competitive and usually takes more than one attempt before being selected. I’m excited for the chance to be involved in the testing of future weapons.”