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Leaders receive short course at Test Pilot School

Lieutenant Gen. Terry Gabreski (right), Air Force Materiel Command vice commander, and Lt. Col. Dale Parsons, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School director of special courses, discuss the general's F-16 mission during a Test Pilot School Senior Executive Short Course held Jan. 9 through 12 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Air Force photo by Chad Bellay)

Lieutenant Gen. Terry Gabreski (right), Air Force Materiel Command vice commander, and Lt. Col. Dale Parsons, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School director of special courses, discuss the general's F-16 mission during a Test Pilot School Senior Executive Short Course held Jan. 9 through 12 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Air Force photo by Chad Bellay)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFMCNS) -- The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School here held a Senior Executive Short Course from Jan. 9 through 12.

The short course is a three-day class introducing senior Department of Defense leaders, both civilian and military, to developmental flight testing.

This particular course focused on the unique people and expertise that are key to the Air Force Flight Test Center's core competencies: flight operations, maintenance, and engineering. Besides an AFFTC overview, they also received academic and flight training in basic flight test techniques, mission conduct and flight envelope expansion testing.

"Senior executives come to the school with a broad range of experience in flight testing," said Lt. Col. Dale Parsons, TPS director of special courses. "Given the short time they're here, we attempt to tailor the course to provide optimum exposure to flight test as well as meet the expectations of the participants."

The overall goal, Colonel Parsons said, is to promote a better understanding of developmental flight test at the operational and tactical levels.

"We want them to appreciate that we test in support of our warfighters; that we verify the effectiveness of weapon systems prior to fielding them into the warfighters' hands," Colonel Parsons said. "We're also familiarizing them with the Test Pilot School and how we support the overall Air Force developmental test mission."

Each day attendees receive academic instruction in a particular flight test discipline, and then fly a test sortie to see a practical hands-on demonstration of the theories taught in the classroom, Colonel Parsons said.

"The goal of their first sortie is to show them performance and flying qualities test points - those are more traditional flight test principles - common to the testing of every airframe, while the goal of their second sortie is to demonstrate more advanced, and potentially more hazardous, flight envelope expansion testing," Colonel Parsons said. "The data we collect in flight test goes directly into the technical orders, highlighting the value of flight testing."

Two different aircraft were used in this course, the C-12 Huron and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. C-12s are used to demonstrate flight test basics and teamwork; participants are responsible for mission director duties as well as flying the test points, Colonel Parsons said. The F-16 is used for both high angle-of-attack departure and limit-cycle-oscillation, or LCO, flight test training.

Considering the LCO mission, structural vibrations resulting from LCO can destroy an aircraft in flight, Colonel Parsons said.

"In test, we identify at what flight conditions LCO occurs and set appropriate technical order limitations so operational aircrew avoid it," he said. "We take our participants to safe structural vibration levels to demonstrate this particularly dangerous phenomenon.

"This sortie also demonstrates how an integrated test team progresses through the full flight test cycle -- theory, plan, fly, reduce, deduce, and report," he said. "In addition, the LCO sortie gives them experience in flight testing typical to the AFFTC, and demonstrates how we mitigate the associated risks."

Lieutenant Gen. Terry Gabreski, Air Force Materiel Command vice commander is one of the four participants in this senior executive course. General Gabreski's background is in the logistics and maintenance career fields.

"This course gives me the insights and principles of the Air Force Flight Test Center and the role it plays in the Air Force in providing warfighting capabilities to the warfighter," General Gabreski said. "Flight test and test and evaluation are critical in accomplishing that mission. The Executive Short Course is the perfect opportunity to get a peek at what the Air Force Flight Test Center mission is."

Talking about her F-16 LCO sortie, General Gabreski said she has had orientation fighter mission sorties before, but the test mission she performed gave her a whole new perspective.

"Both types of missions will help me as I work with the Air Staff and at Air Force Materiel Command headquarters to hopefully make better decisions and provide better support to the test community," General Gabreski said. "Test Pilot School is a tremendous resource the Air Force Flight Test Center has, and it is unparalleled in its structure and abilities."

"Everyone that works here plays such a significant role and is key to accomplishing our Air Force mission," the general said.

For more information on the TPS Senior Executive Short Course, or the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, go online to www.edwards.af.mil/tps/index.htm.