Marine Maj. William Rothermel, USAF TPS student, receives
training from Spike Minczoeski, a Teton Aviation L-39
Photo: Airman 1st Class Stacy Sanchez
9/4/2007 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA. -- Counting down the
100 days left of school, a Marine major is awaiting graduation
from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School here.
Marine Maj. William Rothermel is a student test pilot with
senior class 07A at TPS.
Since 1944, TPS has been the training ground for future test
pilots, test engineers, flight test navigators and weapons systems
operators. TPS's main mission is to produce test pilots and
flight test engineers to test new and experimental aircraft.
"It is a critical step in getting the best systems out
to the warfighter", Major Rothermel said.
During a fiscal year, two separate classes undergo a 48-week
curriculum that includes classroom academics, simulator training
and flight exercises.
"We take aviators who are currently qualified and have
been doing missions for a while," said Col. Mike Luallen,
Test Pilot School commandant. "We bring them to TPS and
teach them how to do flight test. Not all our aviators at the
school are a part of the Air Force. We also have exchange and
Colonel Luallen said TPS students also receive the opportunity
to see new aircraft and weapons systems. The students learn
to do the work on these systems to make sure the equipment meets
standards to do what it was originally designed to do.
"This school and the students are extremely important
to our mission here," Colonel Luallen said. "If we
didn't have this school, we would have a lot of problems. If
we were just to build something and put in into service without
conducting any test before hand, we would come into several
Colonel Luallen said test pilots and engineers are important
in making sure the product is in good shape before it is sent
out to the field. This process is time efficient and cost effective.
During the classroom portion of the curriculum, Major Rothermel
said students gain a wealth of knowledge from the instructors.
"Student are able to broaden their knowledge in flight
testing," Major Rothermel said. "Since there is only
48 week sin the course, there is not enough time to become an
expert at any one thing in particular, but TPS teaches you that
there are several resources to help you as a test pilot."
Colonel Luallen said each student varies in the areas they
enjoy most during the course.
"Some students enjoy the academic portion of the course
because they get a better understanding of the aircraft and
its equipment," Colonel Luallen said. "Since students
also get a broad experience with aircraft, some students enjoy
getting the opportunity to fly several aircraft here."
TPS also offers various short courses throughout the year,
which include senior executive short course, propulsion short
course, electronic warfare short course and unmanned aerial
vehicle short courses.
To become a TPS student as a pilot, main requirements are to
include a bachelor's degree in engineering, mathematics or physics,
be on extended active duty and have at least 750 hours of flying
As a TPS engineer, one must also have a bachelor's degree in
engineering, mathematics or physics. They must also have an
Federal Aviation Administration flying certification or military
Applying to TPS requires two forms, AF-1711 and AF-1712. Instructions
and examples for filling out these forms are contained in AFI
"It's a lot of work and TPS is time consuming, but I would
recommend anyone to apply," Major Rothermel said. "The
things that we are exposed to here are phenomenal."
Each November, TPS has an annual selection board. This board
selects pilots, navigators and engineers for the classes that
start in July and January. The deadline for the application
package to the Air Force Personnel Center is the December prior
to the board.
Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Airman 1st Class