|Air Force, Navy Test Pilot Schools Fly Together |
Air Force, Navy Test Pilot Schools Fly Together
By 1st Lt. Cris L'Esperance, Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs.
Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (AFPN) October 2, 2000 -- The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot school recently hosted members of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as part of an exchange program to further grow the Chuck Yeagers and Neil Armstrongs of tomorrow.
U.S. Air Force Test Pilot school instructor Maj. Phil Edwards, left, prepares Lt. David Ramsey, a U.S. Naval Test Pilot School student, for an exchange program training sortie. (Photo by 1st Lt. Cris L'Esperance)
The 20-year-old tradition provided Navy test pilots, navigators and systems engineers a chance to fly in Air Force aircraft such as the T-38 Talon, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotanker and the B-1 Lancer. Conversely, Air Force TPS senior class students flew the Navy's F-18 Hornet and U-6 Beaver, as well as the Army's UH-60 Blackhawk while visiting Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., in late August.
Experience in such a broad range of aircraft is key to graduating test pilots who must be able to handle any flight situation, said Col. Steve Cameron, TPS commandant.
"Book knowledge can only go so far toward preparing our graduates for the wide range of events an experimental aircraft can throw at them," he said. "Flight test history shows that probably the biggest single contributor to the success of test pilots is the breadth of their experience."
Consequently, the technical exchange between the two schools is critical to their success. Flight experience gained by the 35 visiting Navy students here -- and Air Force students in Maryland -- furthers their qualitative evaluation skills, or more specifically how they practically apply flight-test techniques.
"We get the chance to go up and take a quick snapshot of each aircraft's performance, handling qualities and aircraft systems," said Capt. Greg Gilbreath, a TPS student.
Though hands-on flying experience takes priority in the exchange program, facility tours and aircraft program briefings further help each service's students understand how other test centers do business. Accordingly, the Navy members toured the NASA Dryden Flight Research Centers and the Avionics Test and Integration Complex here, and received briefs of the F-22 Raptor and Joint Strike Fighter programs.
"Just seeing another test center is a great lesson ... what other test facilities exist, how they use test ranges, how each school trains its students and what unique programs are evolving," said Maj. Peter Hughes, TPS' chief of systems and instructor pilot for the C-12, T-39 and B-1.
Hughes also stressed that the joint perspective gained through the exchange is invaluable to graduates who may work in joint programs, such as JSF and CV-22 Osprey.
"We may very well be working as one team in the future and this opens up unique relationships that we wouldn't ordinarily have," he said.
The exchange also allowed Cameron to meet with the skipper of the Navy's TPS, Cmdr. Bob Stoney, and the headmaster of the British test pilot school, Wing Commander David Best.
The four international military test pilot schools, to include the French test pilot school, last met in March at Boscombe Down, England.
"The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School is very proud of the cooperative, yet competitive relationship we have built with our sister schools here and abroad," Cameron said. "The synergy between the schools definitely creates a better TPS graduate, both for our nation and our allies."
- Edwards Air Force Base
- U. S. Air Force Test Pilot School"