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Questions on TPS (Test Pilot School)

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Trying to keep this thread going. Tons on info on here, but I haven't found anything that specifically address second assignments. 

My education: I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering (3.8 GPA) and I'm getting my Master's degree in a non-technical field.

My situation: I'm currently an E-3 copilot planning to upgrade to AC this summer. At the rate I'm going, I'll have my 1000 hours TT by EOY 2019.

My goal is to go straight to TPS from this assignment (20A course); however, in the event this doesn't work out what second assignment would set me up best for the next application? Mainly, would it be a bad idea to switch air-frames, or do I need to stay in my MWS to become an IP ASAP? The primary options that I'm thinking about are C-21's or E-3's to Europe, T-1's in Columbus, or going back to E-3's in OKC, but I'm open to suggestions as well.

I'm also interested in gathering data about the Joint AFIT/TPS program.

Additionally, if anyone has any info that would help a heavy dude's application or if you have any contacts that wouldn't mind talking, please PM me.

I hope this isn't too much. Thanks in advance for any advice!

 

Edited by Bullseye283

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I’d say all of those options are about equal. Unfortunately there’s not exactly a demand for E-3 test pilots, but also not for C-21 or T-1. Not to say that you can’t get picked up out of any of those, just that you would be selected based on the rest of your record rather than a specific need. So this is the classic “bloom where you’re planted”, and go for something that you’ll enjoy and don’t look at it as a stepping stone.

The AFIT option is 18 months there prior to TPS, followed by another 3-4 months at TPS after graduation to finish your thesis before moving to your first assignment. Not sure what else you want to know.

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Some speculation, some more pertinent than others:

MWS is better than a white jet,

IP in an MWS is better than a white jet IP, especially UPT base,

AC in an MWS is PROBABLY better than a white jet IP, especially UPT base

2 aircraft are better than 1,

2 MWS aircraft are better than an MWS and a white Jet... 

IMHO: I would try hard to get the MWS IP, and wouldn't consider going white-jet (unless there is some other compelling reason, i.e. family life).  There is a reason we make make first assignment IPs in the training jets... for you it wouldn't help the resume much.  But you probably need to be an IP to be competitive as a heavy bubba.

But those are really secondary to: Can you handle the academics of the course.  There are minimums for the above, and which of the above is better might only come into play if everything else is pretty close between you and the next guy (look at the application reg and see the break down of requirements, flying experience isn't overwhelming).  If you can't get the minimums or you can't get out of a white jet (other people reading this thread), do something academic and impressive somewhere else.  Get something with "test" in it, go test a new flare load out (that the last WIC guy wrote a paper on), go "Test" a new procedure in the sim, go "test" the new urinal, etc... tell your CC and DO what you want to do, tell them you want anything "Test" that comes down the pipe for your aircraft, etc, etc... Even if something is ground based-only, show the initiative, the willingness to learn and try something new.  Job titles matter too, Exec and "Chief of X" are PROBABLY better than assistant chief of flight safety. Show leadership. When you're young put it on your OPR -"Our Best candidate for TPS"... shows you didn't just start thinking about this last year.

Non-technical Masters is PROBABLY not helping you dramatically... especially if it is a "Box-filler" school.  If it is an MBA from Harvard-sure that helps.

Last note: the board, like the school and AFMC, has a higher percentage of fighter dudes then anything else... just like you don't speak fighter, they don't speak heavy.  Even within those community, the same terms have different meanings.  They don't care that you can do something special in your MWS unless you help paint the picture of it... no one but other E-3 pilots know how hard something is to do in the E-3... There is not a high chance that an E-3 knowledgeable person will be on the board.

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3 hours ago, Tonka said:

Some speculation, some more pertinent than others:

MWS is better than a white jet,

IP in an MWS is better than a white jet IP, especially UPT base,

AC in an MWS is PROBABLY better than a white jet IP, especially UPT base

2 aircraft are better than 1,

2 MWS aircraft are better than an MWS and a white Jet... 

IMHO: I would try hard to get the MWS IP, and wouldn't consider going white-jet (unless there is some other compelling reason, i.e. family life).  There is a reason we make make first assignment IPs in the training jets... for you it wouldn't help the resume much.  But you probably need to be an IP to be competitive as a heavy bubba.

If only the above were true in practice.  Over the past six years, I've seen more pilots that were not MWS IPs, were FAIPs, and had only one assignment in an MWS suggesting that, despite what AFI 99-107 says, being an instructor and having experience in a MWS is not incredibly important in selecting TPS applicants.  I mention this not to suggest that Tonka's reply is incorrect, only that, like he points out below, flying ability does not seem to matter as much to the board.  Now, does it matter to the TPS Chief Test Pilot?  Absolutely, but his evaluation process constitutes only a portion of an applicant's overall score.

But those are really secondary to: Can you handle the academics of the course.  There are minimums for the above, and which of the above is better might only come into play if everything else is pretty close between you and the next guy (look at the application reg and see the break down of requirements, flying experience isn't overwhelming).  If you can't get the minimums or you can't get out of a white jet (other people reading this thread), do something academic and impressive somewhere else.  Get something with "test" in it, go test a new flare load out (that the last WIC guy wrote a paper on), go "Test" a new procedure in the sim, go "test" the new urinal, etc... tell your CC and DO what you want to do, tell them you want anything "Test" that comes down the pipe for your aircraft, etc, etc... Even if something is ground based-only, show the initiative, the willingness to learn and try something new.  Job titles matter too, Exec and "Chief of X" are PROBABLY better than assistant chief of flight safety. Show leadership. When you're young put it on your OPR -"Our Best candidate for TPS"... shows you didn't just start thinking about this last year.

That academic performance matters is unquestionable.  Bullseye283 should probably be aware that GPAs are typically higher among pilots than they are among CSOs, which are generally higher than the Engineers' GPAs.

Non-technical Masters is PROBABLY not helping you dramatically... especially if it is a "Box-filler" school.  If it is an MBA from Harvard-sure that helps.

Last note: the board, like the school and AFMC, has a higher percentage of fighter dudes then anything else... just like you don't speak fighter, they don't speak heavy.  Even within those community, the same terms have different meanings.  They don't care that you can do something special in your MWS unless you help paint the picture of it... no one but other E-3 pilots know how hard something is to do in the E-3... There is not a high chance that an E-3 knowledgeable person will be on the board.

 

Attached is an AIAA article written by Bill "Evil" Gray, USAF TPS Chief Test Pilot, about the new-at-the-time selection process.  It is a good read for learning more about what the test community seeks in aspiring test pilots.

USAF_Test_Pilot_Selection_for_the_Next_Generation.pdf

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On 3/3/2018 at 3:40 PM, Muscle2002 said:

Bullseye283 should probably be aware that GPAs are typically higher among pilots than they are among CSOs, which are generally higher than the Engineers' GPAs.

Fightin’ words for nerd flag!

(Depends on whether order of merit, medical, and/or personal interest drove career path.)

Edited by gimmeaplane

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Restarting this thread with a couple of questions!

1) What are assignments like after graduating TPS? I'm currently flying the EC-130H, so does that mean I would go back to flying heavies or could I get an assignment flying fighter/bomber?

2) If a TSP student comes from a heavy (EC-130H) background, will he/she only fly heavies during TSP or would he/she fly, say, the F-16?

3) It looks like for pilots, master's is not required, but is it necessary for your application to be competitive?

4) Are there any bases besides Eglin and Edwards to which TPS graduates get assigned?

Thanks!

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1) 99%+ probable heavy to heavy.  418th and 413th do cool, relevant work.

2) You’ll fly it all during TPS.

3) Depends on you, your record, and what the board needs that year.  Can’t hurt.  Check the AFIT container and they’ll send you if that’s the only thing holding you back.

4) Yes.  Edwards and Hurlburt are the main ones for heavy pilots.  But there’s a C-17 exchange to UK, KC-46 test is in Seattle, Rescue CTF is at Nellis, and Big Safari test.

Edited by gimmeaplane

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Another question for a friend. My friend is currently an 62E developmental engineer wanting to backseat F-16s for his next assignment. I know there's a route for engineers to go to TPS and then graduate as a flight test engineer, but I've also heard of 2nd Lt's backseating F-16s at Eglin fresh out of the academy as, if my memory is correct, a "flight test engineer". I might be getting the exact job titles mixed up.

Q: What's the job title for engineers who backseat F-16s without graduating TPS and without a Master's?

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1 hour ago, wannabeastronaut said:

Q: What's the job title for engineers who backseat F-16s without graduating TPS and without a Master's?

“Casual status”, “awaiting training”, “connected”, or “yes, she is”. 

Edited by war007afa
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5 minutes ago, war007afa said:

“Casual status”, “awaiting training”, “connected”, or “yes, she is”. 

Or the _____ award winner.

  • Like 1

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You can be a flight test engineer right out of commissioning, no requirement for TPS.  I believe its still a 62E AFSC, just your assignment is Eglin/Nellis/Edwards as an FTE vs. Wright Patt (as an example).  At least from what I've seen, "other" FTE jobs go to 2nd assignment FTEs, with a lot of them being TPS grads.

I don't know how you get into an FTE slot, but worth a talk with leadership, AFPC functional, etc.  PM your friend's contact info (mil) and I'll get him in contact with a couple FTEs.

Edited by brabus

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Another question for a friend. My friend is currently an 62E developmental engineer wanting to backseat F-16s for his next assignment. I know there's a route for engineers to go to TPS and then graduate as a flight test engineer, but I've also heard of 2nd Lt's backseating F-16s at Eglin fresh out of the academy as, if my memory is correct, a "flight test engineer". I might be getting the exact job titles mixed up.

Q: What's the job title for engineers who backseat F-16s without graduating TPS and without a Master's?

We typically refer to non-grads as “test engineers”, while the grads get the full FTE status. Obviously the non-grads have different responsibilities, but the more experienced ones (even as Lt’s) can end up being nearly indistinguishable from grads. And it’s the best way to get your foot in the door to TPS. Edwards has a lot more flying jobs for 62E’s than Eglin, but there are some on the wetter side. The grad positions have an X-code and a different shredout, but non-grads can typically fill the slots too.


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