If I go to a test pilot school, what kind of airplanes will I fly?
You might be wondering that, and like any good engineer, my answer to that question is, “It depends.” It depends on what test pilot school you go to, but I will address what I know best first.
3 Test Pilot School Trainer Aircraft
At the USAF Test Pilot School, the test pilot candidates fly three aircraft as its primary curriculum trainers: F-16, C-12, and T-38.
1. F-16 C/D Fighting Falcon “Viper”
This single-engine fighter allows test pilot candidates and flight test engineers to see high performance and supersonic flight test as well as weapons systems integration. This photo is an F-16D taking off for a weapons delivery flight test technique sortie.
2. C-12 Huron
The King Air 200 is an ideal aircraft for multi-engine training and for large aircrews, as it can hold multiple test pilot students and flight test engineers at the same time. It also operates at slower airspeeds than the other primary aircraft and introduces propeller effects into the training as well. This photo was taken from a unique vantage point before a test management project test sortie.
The USAF’s reliable jet trainer is the workhorse of the test pilot school and exposes students to fighter-type performance and serves as the primary aircraft for student team data collection flight test techniques and projects.
The USAF Test Pilot School also has several gliders from Schweizer, Blanik, and ASK that are used heavily in the curriculum. Students also fly the KC-135, the Hu-16 Twin Albatross, F-15D, F-15E, Calspan Learjet Variable Stability Simulator, F-16 VISTA, MiG-15, T-6 SNJ, An-2, L-39 Albatross, the US Navy ASTARS aircraft, and many more.
Don’t just imagine your dreams–explore them, because we need you. The aerospace industry needs innovators. The flight test community is looking for the next Neil Armstrong, and that’s what this column is about, helping you take that next small step.
Thanks for reading Launch Your Flight Test Career #12. Send a message to @FlightTestFact on Twitter to ask questions about launching your flight test career.