Class 17A ready to ‘shock’ test world

U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 17A pose for a group photo on the graduation stage in Hangar 1623 Dec. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 17A pose for a group photo on the graduation stage in Hangar 1623 Dec. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 17A pose for a group photo on the graduation stage in Hangar 1623 Dec. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 17A class patch. (Courtesy graphic)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The test world received several gifts early this holiday season. The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School gave the test world 20 new experimental test pilots and flight test engineers Dec. 8.

The “Shockers” of Class 17A stood proudly before friends, families, base leadership and fellow testers in Hangar 1623 as they received their Master of Science Degree in Flight Test Engineering. As each graduate crossed the stage they received the graduate plaque from TPS, the diploma from Air University and the graduate coin.

The graduation is the culmination of an intense, 48-week program that included more than 2,500 hours of academics and approximately 120 hours of in-flight training; transforming top operational pilots, navigators and engineers into elite flight test professionals.

Students from the U.S. Navy, France and the Royal Australian Air Force were among the mostly Air Force class. For their master’s degrees, the students demonstrated learning by planning and executing real-world test management projects, which formed the foundation for their thesis.

The guest speaker for the graduation, Thomas Morgenfeld, flew 90 combat missions for the U.S. Navy and graduated from Empire Test Pilot School. His aviation career spanned more than 50 years. He flew more than 80 aircraft types, according to his introduction, including the F-117 Nighthawk, F-22 Raptor and the early prototype of the F-35.

“If you don’t remember anything else, remember never, never, never, never, ever, let your guard down,” said Morgenfeld. “New airplanes and new systems will be just waiting to jump on you. There’s just things you don’t know so keep your guard up at all times. There’s no such thing as an easy-peasy flight.”

Morgenfeld also stressed the need for teamwork.

“Things these days have become so complex that you really do need a team effort to get through this stuff. It’s virtually impossible for one person to know everything about the airplane so build your teams, study hard and trust the teams. Developing a solid team in testing is the key to the whole thing.”

Class 17A graduates join 3,000 alumni including more than 100 general officers and 60 astronauts.

Test programs across the Air Force Test Center and beyond integrate TPS graduates into test teams to shape the technology and weapon systems of the future for the Air Force, sister services and allied nations.

TPS CLASS 17A GRADUATES

Capt. Shane Bellingham

Capt. Philip Downing

Flight Lieutenant Adam Francki (Royal Australian Air Force)

Maj. Michael Fritts

Capt. Benjamin Gilliland

Capt. Timothy Grace

Capt. Weston Hanoka

Capt. Alexander Hillman

Capt. Matthew Illowsky

Capt. Jacob Lambach

Lt. Gavin MacGarva (U.S. Navy)

Eric Menant (France)

Maj. Jacob Rohrback

Capt. Mark Shaker

Capt. Thomas Stuart

Capt. Carl Tegtmeier

Capt. Jason Thomas

Capt. Michael Tibbs

Capt. Daniel Welch

CLASS 17A TEST MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

Have Vision:  The primary objective of this test program is to assess the ability of stereo camera systems and computer vision algorithms to obtain a relative navigation measurement sufficiently precise to enable automated aerial refueling without dependence on the GPS. 

Have Hope: The objective of this project is to determine how a real-time biofeedback visualization of personal physiologic and cognitive state can enhance operator awareness, decision making and performance. 

Have SKYNET: The project name stands for Simulated Killchain Yielding Network Enabled Technologies.

Have SPEED:  The objective of this test project is to validate the new air data calibration methods proposed by the project sponsors and to provide performance flight data for further analysis tool investigation.