|EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Marine Corps Maj. Zach McCarley’s journey began when he was a seventh grader in school at Fayetteville, Ga. That‟s when he saw the Air Force Thunderbirds fly and knew he wanted to be a pilot.
Then in college as an aerospace engineering major at Georgia Tech, Major McCarley discovered that the path to innovation and invention – to the leading edge of powered flight – was to become a test pilot.
He and 23 other students from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 10B will receive a Master of Science in Flight Test Engineering degree when they graduate June 11.
It was not by accident that Major McCarley, who is the class leader, ended up in the high desert. He took advantage of the test pilot exchange program, where pilots from one service attend the test pilot school of another. “In terms of history, you can‟t be any closer what has been accomplished in aviation than here at Edwards.”
United States Air Force Test Pilot School students endure a rigorous schedule where they have to balance intense academics while flying a wide variety of aircraft.
His time here is something he’ll never forget. “It’s been great here at Edwards and I‟ve made great friends that I will probably have for the rest of my life.”
Still, like his classmates, he said he’s looking forward to graduating and getting to work in flight test.
“It’s a big honor to be part of the club and wear the Air Force test pilot school patch and be one of the testers out there getting equipment to the warfighters,” Major McCarley said. “It’s been a tough curriculum and it‟s nice to get it all behind us.”
Major McCarley will head to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., to be an F-18 Super Hornet test pilot.
The Class 10B degree recipients consisted of 12 experimental flight test pilots including one each from the air forces of Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Ten flight test engineers, one experimental unmanned aerial systems pilot and one flight test weapons systems officer.
The class had one civilian flight test engineer. Thomas Cooper, 413th Flight Test Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., will return to his former base to work on CV-22 Ospreys.
“It was very challenging but an awesome experience,” said Mr. Cooper. “You work with great people, which is the best thing about the school – both students and instructors.”
Each degree recipient has completed more than 2,500 hours of academics and approximately 120 hours of in-flight training. Students put in about six hours per day of instructor contact time, not including academic and flight preparation time.
During the final six months of the year at TPS, students demonstrated knowledge of curriculum objectives through the planning and execution of test management projects.
Each TMP team consisted of six students who carried out an actual test project for a customer. The projects were BEAR CLAW, Have RPA, Have Raven and Have Mable.
BEAR CLAW was tasked by the Air Force Research Laboratory to provide data for developing flight control laws to enable automated aerial refueling of remotely piloted aircraft.
Have RPA evaluated a remotely-piloted Learjet for the Test Pilot School’s curriculum development. Have RPA successfully tested a ground-up datalink, characterizing the aircraft response to ground station inputs beyond 70 miles distance.
Have Raven determined the detection and track ranges of four small light aircraft. Thirteen total missions were completed by two radar aircraft performing independent radar intercepts on the aircraft using different radar modes at varying altitudes and aspect angles. The success of this test management project provided the customer with the data necessary to develop operational techniques to detect and track small light aircraft.
The Have Mable TMP investigated Electronic Countermeasures on the C-12J for the 586 FLTS at Holloman AFB, N.M. For ECM testing, the C-12J offered an increased loiter and reduced flight-hour cost over the currently used T-38. Have Mable conducted the first flight of an ECM pod on the C-12J.
Each degree recipient has been trained to lead members of a flight test team in the latest methods of flight testing, systems evaluation and test management, while instilling the cooperation and understanding between test team members necessary for successful flight test operations.
Class 10B’s graduating class:
Capt. Beisner, Gary, Engineer, USAF
Maj. Billings, Shaylor, Pilot, USAF
Capt. Bronder, Timothy J., Engineer, USAF
Mr. Cooper, Thomas C., Engineer, DOD
Capt. Davidson, Ryan J., Engineer, USAF
Capt. Devan, Aaron M., Weapons system officer, USAF
Maj. Egan, Joshua C., Pilot ,USAF
Capt. Heinz, David A., Engineer, USAF
Capt. Helms, Nicholas J., Unmanned aerial systems, USAF
Capt. Hurtado, Javier Jr., Engineer, USAF
Flight Lt. Keeble, Mark P., Pilot, United Kingdom
Capt. Lamping, Logan J., Pilot, USAF
Capt. Lee, Jason K., Engineer, USAF
Maj. Lukkien, Ralf, Pilot, Netherlands
Capt. Mangini, Marco, Pilot, Italy
Maj. McCarley, Zach (Class Ldr), Pilot, USMC
Maj. Mikal, John A., Multi-E Pilot, USAF
Capt. Peterson, Josef N., Engineer, USAF
Capt. Rabe, Matthew R., Pilot, USAF
Capt. Sorenson, Daniel K., Pilot, USAF
Capt. Steinfort, Edward R., Multi-E Pilot, USAF
Capt. Taliaferro, Brian C., Multi-E Pilot, USAF
Capt. Yerrick, Nathan P., Engineer, USAF
Capt. Yttri, Michael G., Engineer, USAF