REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 10, 2021) – All experimental test pilot jobs are not actually the same.
When U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Maj. Cameron Keogh was stationed at Redstone Test Center as an experimental test pilot, he was responsible more for formal certification and qualification of government-led tests.
Now at Fort Eustis, Virginia, since 2020, his role “is more of the research and development side of the house, somebody’s got a great idea of something they want to strap on a helicopter and we will design and build some sort of rapid prototype mounting to get it on the helicopter. Then we will go fly it, make an assessment that the customer either continue – or not continue down that path,” Keogh said.
It is definitely an assignment that “scratches the engineering itch” for Keogh, who possesses a systems engineering degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Even though he has been at AvMC for less than a year, Keogh is now taking on another job change as the new chief of flight test for the unit.
Moving duty stations during COVID-19 – with a baby and toddler – is not for the faint of heart, and Keogh said that he and his family did not go anywhere for basically more than a year due to the pandemic. But there were some lessons that he learned from spending “a lot of time in a small camper with two small kids and two big dogs.”
“Being able to spend that time with my family was a silver lining,” Keogh said. “It has helped me re-balance my work/life priorities.”
Life as an Army pilot is anything but stagnant – Keogh was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, and to Iraq in 2011. After his second deployment, Keogh was accepted into the Army’s Experimental Test Pilot program. While the job itself is always changing, Keogh said that it definitely takes a certain type of personality to be an experimental test pilot and that flying skill, while hugely important, is only part of the equation. Verbal and written communication skills are also essential, especially when after a flight test, you have to be the one “to tell someone who spent two years on their ‘baby’ all the bad news about that baby.”
For those who believe they have the right stuff to be an experimental test pilot, Keogh shared his advice.
“There are a lot of very smart people in the Army, but it takes a certain type of detail-oriented personality to find joy in this job,” Keogh said. “It takes a bit of soul searching to get past the ‘cool’ factor when thinking about applying to the XP assessment program. The day-to-day work is not super fun for everybody.
“But if this is what a young Soldier thinks they are interested in, the two things they need to do are to find an XP mentor and to focus on being the best you can at all you do – not just in the cockpit.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.