By Ms. Sofia Bledsoe (ASA (ALT) )January 8, 2009
It started with a vision three years ago at Fort Rucker.
Today that vision has turned to reality. And no amount of rain could dampen the enthusiasm of both developmental flight testers and program/product managers alike as they stood underneath the tent during a ground breaking ceremony for the Aviation Technical Test Center's two new Combined Test Team buildings near the airfield Dec. 17.
"This is a big day," Brig. Gen. Tim Crosby, program executive officer for aviation, said. Crosby, an "alumnus" of the testing community who flew with the old Aviation Test Board at Fort Rucker in the 1990s, said he was thrilled when Huntsville became the place of choice for the Base Realignment and Closure move of ATTC.
"These buildings will enable PEO personnel and aircraft manufacturer's flight test personnel to work alongside ATTC to enhance flight test coordination and execution," he said. It will also house the facilitation of government and contractor test team personnel moves from their various locations around the country to a centralized flight test site on Redstone Arsenal.
ATTC commander Col. Chris Sullivan, currently stationed at Fort Rucker, envisioned this project about three years ago - a vision of progress within the aviation testing community. Because the two new buildings are non-BRAC funded, Sullivan collaborated with PEO Aviation and the Redstone Garrison to fund the new Combined Test Team buildings that will accommodate 30 personnel in each 7,100 square foot building and will be ready for occupancy by summer or fall.
"This is an integration, not just a co-location of ATTC and PEO Aviation," Sullivan said. The joint venture between the two organizations will allow both to improve communications with the product and project managers regarding airworthiness and system safety and enable them to accelerate materiel funding.
"Working together side-by-side will considerably minimize or eliminate mistakes or miscommunication between the two organizations," Sullivan said. He added that this day marked the beginning of the establishment of single site testing.
Sullivan said the integration will streamline the process of ATTC developmental testing, improve communications and most importantly gain a better and clearer understanding of one another's needs and missions to accomplish one goal: to get the best equipment to the Soldier.
"In bringing the developmental test team of the Army and PEO Aviation together will result in a better product for the Soldier," Crosby said. "This groundbreaking signifies the continued marriage between PEO Aviation and the test shop."
ATTC deputy commander Keith Darrow, stationed on Redstone, said ATTC's test team personnel are located around the country at aircraft manufacturer test sites in Florida, Texas, and Arizona and even occasionally, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. An average of two ATTC testers are deployed with combat units serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The groundbreaking ceremony included a special presentation to Garrison mechanical engineer Scott Chapman. He received the Commander's Award for Civilian Service at the ceremony and was lauded for his efforts toward assisting ATTC with upgrades to existing test support facilities and with new test infrastructure projects not funded by BRAC.
ATTC, a subordinate unit of the Army Developmental Test Command and the Army Test and Evaluation Command, is currently headquartered at Fort Rucker. Because of BRAC, ATTC is slated to move its headquarters to Redstone Arsenal within the next two years and bring 323 jobs to the community. More than 100 positions and personnel have already transferred.
ATTC's mission is to plan and conduct developmental flight testing and airworthiness qualification of manned and unmanned aircraft and aviation systems. ATTC analyzes data, reports test finding, and develops recommendations for airworthiness, system safety, and materiel release decision authorities. The center assists flight test customers, which are primarily the project and product managers within PEO Aviation, to accomplish their materiel acquisition and fielding initiatives.
"In under two years, we will also merge with Redstone Technical Test Center to form the new Redstone Test Center," Darrow said. In late spring, ATTC will conduct a larger ground breaking to celebrate the initiation of its BRAC-funded flight support center.
"This is the place where we'll gain the best benefit for the organizations," Crosby said.