U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School launches enlisted test course

The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., last taught an enlisted test course in 2012 and 2018.

The idea to bring the course back to the TPS was raised in 2019, and that culminated with the graduation of Class 21-Bravo of the Enlisted Test Professionals Course, Aug. 27, 2021, at Edwards.

In an effort to bridge the gap for enlisted members newly introduced to the Test enterprise, the course was created to overcome a knowledge gap and formalize developmental and operational test training.

“When the class began the students were told three targets we were aiming for,” said Master Sgt. Mike “DLow” Danilowski, USAF TPS superintendent, during the class 21-Bravo graduation ceremony. “First, we wanted to give them the knowledge to provide them with a common ground to more jointly work along with very diverse testing teams. Second, we wanted them to leave with a working theory. We wanted to introduce them to the vast expanse of problems and challenges that the testing world can bring us to and offer them some level of comfort in being in familiar territory. And finally, but most importantly, we wanted to show them the mindset of a tester. A mindset that allows them to ask the sometimes hard but critical questions, to look at problems not for the challenge it brings them today, but for what it could bring the warfighter tomorrow.”

During the four-week course, students from an array of Air Force Specialty Codes covered topics including foundational knowledge, aerodynamics and sciences, mission, and systems.

“We bring all of our testers in from operational backgrounds and by the time they move here, they are typically experts in their craft,” he said. “That is important because their experience is vital to validating systems that ultimately will be fielded to their fellow Airman.”

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Ireland, current 412 Operations Group superintendent was in attendance for Class 21-Bravo’s graduation. In 2008, as a master sergeant, Ireland was first introduced to Test and, like many, experienced a steep learning curve. This eventually led to his role as a catalyst for the first enlisted test course in 2012.

Upon returning to Edwards in 2019, Ireland became an ever-present force guiding, mentoring, and building the new sustainable program.

To culminate the course, the students participated in a joint effort with the Emerging Technology Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB to characterize the MPU-5 radio system. Coupled with the course academics, the students organized a test team, developed a unique test and safety plan, to collect usable data for the ET CTF to deliver decision quality data to the warfighter.

“Take what we’ve given you here, these foundations, and continue to build on them, become even better,” Ireland said to the graduating class. “You are forever tied to this, you’re forever invested in the success of this course.”

For those interested in attending the next ETPC and have access to AFNET, more information can be found at http://go.usa.gov/xM34Qa. In the future, more information will also be available at USAF TPS’s website, www.edwards.af.mil/units/usaftps/.

“Know that forever, with that patch on your shoulder, that you’re part of the heritage of Test Pilot School,” said David Vanhoy, USAF TPS technical director, concluded. “You’re a member of the cadre that have graduated here and we are going to continue to grow this enlisted course because it’s so important.”

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