Air Force Announces Results of Selection Board
The Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, TX,
announced Wednesday that 35 Air Force officers had been selected to
attend test pilot school. A selection board met in November, but
the results are only being announced now. The selected officers
have been notified.
Most of them, 32, will attend the US Air Force Test Pilot School
at Edwards Air Force Base, CA. Two will see the other side of
things at he US Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air
Station, MD, and a single officer will learn how the other side
does it, at the Empire Test Pilot School at RAF Boscombe Down.
The release did not say that all the selected officers were
pilots; it would be normal for about 40% of them to be flight-test
engineers or navigators. Even the pilots need an engineering
background and education, not just first-rate flying skills, to be
considered for this plum assignment.
The graduates of these schools have gone on to conduct
experimental test flight of most of the military's new aircraft, as
well as perform the more routine side of flight test, such as
performance testing and weapons compatibility flights. Flight-test
school selection often marks "high-flying" candidates for even more
responsible positions in the Air Force and beyond. Test Pilot
School graduates are well-represented in the astronaut ranks, and
are widely sought after by civilian industry as well.
Prerequisites don't seem insuperably high. While the applicant
needs, in most cases, a BS in Engineering, Mathematics or Physics,
the minimum grade point average (GPA) is only 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
But this is not a case where the minimum is usually good enough;
the positions are highly competitive. Pilots must have 12 months'
experience as aircraft commander and be qualified instructor pilots
in a "major weapon system" or, if not instructors, have at least
750 hours total time. Navigators need to be qualified instructors
in their system or have at least 500 hours (maybe they learn faster
Student time, and UAV controller time -- which the USAF
generally counts as flight time -- don't count towards these
minimums. For example, it helps an engineer or navigator to have
FAA licenses; it helps a pilot to have demonstrated accomplishments
in engineering or physics. Once a student is accepted, the grueling
school program begins.
While it varies slightly among the three schools, pilots,
engineers and navigators spend about a year in a high-pressure,
physically and mentally demanding training environment. Pilots
going in might have flown fighters, bombers or transports, but
coming out they are qualified to test-fly just about any kind of
airplane -- and then document its properties equally cogently,
whether speaking the highly technical, mathematical language of the
engineer, or the blunt, highly-stylized English of a military
The Air Force did not release the names of the selectees.