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AF Test Pilot School-Masters Degree


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Hey all, I am early in my first assignment and have begun looking at (online) masters programs to start. I have an undergrad in aero engineering and wanting to improve my application to TPS/U2/B2 programs down the road. After reading AFI99-107 and talking to others, it seems that a technical masters is desired for having a shot at the TPS board. My question is there any specific masters or schools that would stand out? I am leaning towards Embry Riddle's MS Aero program but curious on other degrees such as MS Flight Test Engineering, etc... Also planning on tuition assistance to help max extent possible. And I will take any gouge on recent TPS boards, haven't seen any recent posts about it. Cheers!

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Not a test pilot, but here's an option for you:

AFIT has a distance learning systems engineering master's degree, and one of the specialty tracks is test and evaluation. There's also a non thesis option as well.

On the plus side, AFIT doesn't charge tuition anymore for AD for their distance learning courses, so you'll only need to pay for textbooks.

But you'll need to take the GRE to apply to AFIT (I think TA still covers the GRE).

ETA: doing the AFIT degree doesn't incur any ADSC. I thought the program was pretty good. They also have certificate programs as well, which are basically just the specialization classes from the masters.
https://www.afit.edu/

AFIT-DL programs
https://www.afit.edu/DL/page.cfm?page=622

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42 minutes ago, friendly_mango said:

Hey all, I am early in my first assignment and have begun looking at (online) master's programs to start. I have an undergrad in aero engineering and wanting to improve my application to TPS/U2/B2 programs down the road. After reading AFI99-107 and talking to others, it seems that a technical masters is desired for having a shot at the TPS board. My question is there any specific masters or schools that would stand out? I am leaning towards Embry Riddle's MS Aero program but curious on other degrees such as MS Flight Test Engineering, etc... Also planning on tuition assistance to help max extent possible. And I will take any gouge on recent TPS boards, haven't seen any recent posts about it. Cheers!

Yes, a technical MS is an unstated (compared to FTE) desire for the test pilot track. However, ERAU’s programs generally do not meet that bill. Nevertheless, one of the pilots in my class had a masters from ERAU and did well. 
 

For pilots, the community is looking for a great pilot with operational experience and the ability to think like an engineer--in the air and on the ground. Adaptability and a disciplined approach to exploring the unknown are also highly sought and trained to at the school.

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My data is about 6.9 years old, but I was able to get a full-up Masters in Mechanical Engineering through Colorado State University, 100% distance learning. They may now have an aero program?

 
They accepted TA, AND at the time I was “attending” a generous benefactor was offering scholarships to military personnel/vets that maintained a high enough GPA; between those two programs it was 100% paid for. 

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A Master's in Engineering makes you more competitive at the board, but it is not a requirement.  A letter of recommendation from a TPS graduate (or 2) probably has more weight for pilots quite honestly.  Plus you get a Master's of Science in Flight Test Engineering for going through the course.  The only thing a Master's in Engineering opens up for you is if you want to get selected for the TPS PhD program after TPS.

In my class about 1/2 of the pilots had an Engineering Masters, 1/3 had non-Engineering Master's degrees (ERAU, MBA, etc.), and some had no Master's degree prior to TPS.

Plus there is an AFIT TPS option.  Take the GRE and get a Letter of Academic Eligibility from AFIT for their Aero or Electrical Engineering Masters program then apply for TPS with the AFIT box checked on the application.

As far as how to get a letter of recommendation from a TPS grad.  Find out who the TPS grads are that are working DT on your airframe, get in touch with them, and convince them you are they guy or gal they want to work with.  Figuring out a permissive TDY out to Edwards or just straight up taking leave to go there on your own to check it out sends a pretty strong message.  Plus you will realize where you are signing up to live for possibly the bulk of your active duty career going forward.  The flight line is like an airshow everyday especially when TPS has qual eval aircraft in town, but it is a very remote place to live for people that like urban amenities...like a drive through Starbucks, fully stocked liquor store, or gym that isn't as old (or older) than all the bombers on the flight line.

If you want to do an online MS go for it. It certainly won't hurt you.  One of my classmates did the CSU program that was mentioned, and I know at least 3 TPS grads that did the MS Program from the University of Alabama.

https://catalog.ua.edu/graduate/engineering/aerospace-mechanics/ms/

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19 hours ago, Magellan said:

Plus you will realize where you are signing up to live for possibly the bulk of your active duty career going forward.  The flight line is like an airshow everyday especially when TPS has qual eval aircraft in town, but it is a very remote place to live for people that like urban amenities...like a drive through Starbucks, fully stocked liquor store, or gym that isn't as old (or older) than all the bombers on the flight line.

 

Spent 2.5 years at Eddies in the late 80’s, worked maintenance in the F-15 Combined Test Force.  Yes, it is/was pretty remote like 14 miles, all on base at 55 mph, from the Rosamond “gate” to seeing the guard shack and other base buildings.  BUT it was an awesome assignment; saw the space shuttle land several times and leave again on top of that modified 747, watched a B-1 land on the lake bed with a nose gear that wouldn’t come down touched down on the mains and skidded to a stop with the nose of the jet on the dirt (pilot did a great job, very minimal damage), there was a human powered bicycle “motor” airplane covered in what looked like saran wrap with a giant wing span flying at like 5 feet AGL up and down the flightline.  Down on the NASA ramp they were still flying the oldest but youngest B-52 in the fleet.  I was a “B” model used for flight test, yes the exact same Buff you see in all those old-ass flight test movies, it was oldest in years but youngest in flying hours.  Then there was the annual “MASH Bash” and BBQ keg party on the ruins of Pancho Barnes’ “Happy Bottom Riding Club” made famous in the movie “The Right Stuff”.    Went to Nellis from there, didn’t know how good I had it at Eddies till I left. Good luck and chase your dream.

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2 hours ago, Stitch said:
22 hours ago, Magellan said:

Plus you will realize where you are signing up to live for possibly the bulk of your active duty career going forward.  The flight line is like an airshow everyday especially when TPS has qual eval aircraft in town, but it is a very remote place to live for people that like urban amenities...

Yes, it is/was pretty remote like 14 miles, all on base at 55 mph, from the Rosamond “gate” to seeing the guard shack and other base buildings.  BUT it was an awesome assignment

I'll be honest, a lot of people from the DT community seem to dislike Edwards; however, having been assigned or TDY enough times to the other DT locations, Edwards ranks pretty high for me for the exact reasons Stitch and Magellan noted. One thing they did not mention is that you are about 3 hours to everything...beach, mountains, Vegas, etc. Personally, it was great being so close to the Eastern Sierra Nevadas and all of the great hiking there. The Edwards airspace is great too...not quite as good as the NTTR, but it is the only place where the highest and lowest elevations in the lower 48 exist. 

More importantly, make sure you know you want to tread down the DT path. Just like in picking an airframe in UPT, you should pick TPS or non-TPS based on mission not location. For most communities, once you go to TPS, you will not return to the 'regular' AF. You'll have opportunities to integrate with the operational test and even operational squadron folks from time-to-time, especially if you are a fighter or bomber guy, but it's unlikely your old community will bring you back for leadership or other opportunities. You'll still be managed by your old communities developmental team; however, for all intents and purposes, you're a persona non grata to the old community. Unfortunately, the test world has not capitalized on this gap and talent management has suffered as a consequence. Nevertheless, the DT world has improved in its efforts to be relevant for the rest of the AF by working with current warfighters, which may help soothe the sting of not being able to do the real-world mission anymore (if that is your desire). 

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Edwards could be some of the best flying you’ll ever do... but IMO if you have kids over 10ish, you’re basically trading their youth for your flying career. Bold statement and there are definitely ways to minimize that (live with an hour+ commute, send them off base for school,etc) don’t get me wrong, the weekends can be great, lot of amazing things to see/do within 2 hours drive, people are amazing, they just love the mission... but the kids get lost.  Leadership doesn’t see it as a problem, rumor is they moved the gate years ago so it doesn’t count as a remote, so schools are Cali-worthless, the pools are freezing, they built one in housing with no heaters... kids come out blue.  Make good friends, have good times, leave before all the other kids leave or they’ll be the only ones in their peer group left.

as for masters, yes technical is better, embry is not as good, but showing initiatives are what matters... vol for any “tests” in your airframe, tell your sq/cc - they might know a dude/dudette, have them write it in your OPR (“ready for tps now”) and if nothing else call the squadron out there that handles your airframe and ask for an ADO, they’ll help you out.  

They want to know that you’re above average intelligence, ready to learn something quickly and then apply it, and have better than average pilotage... so finds ways to get those experiences on paper. Turn off the autopilot whenever you can and trim the aircraft to +/-1 knot and see if you can get it to stay for 5 minutes, do full after burner climbs with the same tolerance, find what is difficult and dedicate time to perfecting it.  

If you want it -go after it, if you just want to apply one day, they’ll smell you out... many folks apply a few times and have years dedicated to getting their app ready.  There’s actually a reg that governs the application, go read it now see what they want, then make those things happen in you career.

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