3/14/2008 - Robins Air Force Base, GA -- When it comes to ensuring
many of the Air Force's pilots are safe in the cockpit, the
flight crews of the 413th Flight Test Group are on the job.
Flight crews from the 413th FTG, a tenant unit at Robins, are
stationed throughout the nation to help conduct functional flight
tests. The group is a partnership between the Air Force Materiel
Command and the Air Force Reserve Command and is the operational
supervisor of all the depot flight test units.
"We own a large piece of the AFMC flight test mission,"
said Col. Doug Carpenter, 413th FTG vice commander. He described
the mission of the group as, "the corporate headquarters
of a bigger mission."
The group, which manages four squadrons and two flights is
made up of 140 full-time Airmen, 78 traditional reservist and
nine civil servants. The group conducts flight tests on aircraft
after the programmed depot maintenance is completed.
Once PDM is completed, members of the flight crew begin a variety
of ground checks to -make sure the aircraft is ready for a functional
"(A flight test) is a lot more extensive than a normal
preflight," said Senior Master Sgt. O'Brian Webster, superintendent
of the group.
Once the flight crew decides the aircraft it ready, "they
take-off and fly a very methodical checklist to check out the
basic operating system," he said.
Some of the areas checked while airborne include the flight
controls and landing gear.
"It can be hazardous and quite risky," Sergeant Webster
said, adding that being a flight test pilot requires a "special
"Once the aircraft is deemed airworthy, then the airplane
is delivered to the home station and is configured to fly whatever
mission it is assign-ed to fly," Sergeant Webster said.
He said the group's flight crews have to go through a lot of
involved training before they are able to test the aircraft
in an effort to get them ready for the mission.
The group also helps transport damaged aircrafts to areas where
they can be repaired.
One example was the recovery of a B-1B Lancer from a forward
operating location, where one of the aircrafts engines caught
fire and was burned beyond use. Members of the group's 10th
Flight Test Squadron at Tinker AFB, Okla., flew the bomber with
just three engines out of the area of responsibility and back
to where it could be repaired.
Colonel Carpenter said the mission is not just about the flyers;
the group's staff make the flight test mission possible.
"We have a lot of people behind the scenes getting our
flight crews out the door," he said.
Sergeant Webster said one noteworthy thing about their group
is the vast array of aircraft the group works with such as the
"A lot of people think the F-4 is retired, but we still
have someone flying the F-4," Sergeant Webster said.
Not only does the unit have the opportunity to work with aircraft
from the past, it also gets to work with aircraft considered
on the forefront of the future, such as the F-22 Raptor.
"We arguably support flight operations from the oldest
to the newest flying aircraft," Colonel Carpenter said.
"We see the cradle to the grave of our Air Force inventory
Source: USAF/Robins AFB Press Release by Amanda Creel