REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (June 16, 2021) – One of the key missions at the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, known as RTC, is to provide technical expertise in the test and evaluation of aviation systems. At the forefront of experimental and engineering flight testing are highly-trained Army Experimental Test Pilots, known as XPs.
Army XPs are graduates of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, known as NTPS. Selected candidates are experienced combat aviators and attend the course at Naval Air Station Patuxent River (PAX River), Maryland, for 12 months. The Army receives 9 seats a year and provides instructors and aircraft for the course. The majority of the Army graduates then come to RTC for a tour of duty as an XP.
RTC XP Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Fish graduated in the summer of 2018 in Class 153. This summer, Fish and his family are returning to PAX River, this time as an instructor at the NTPS.
“They started looking for volunteers to go so I talked it over with my family and we thought it would be a good move for the family and for me career-wise to go,” said Fish. “I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of testing on different airframes, Black Hawks, and airplanes and hopefully I can take some of that back up there with these new test pilots coming in, help them prepare, let them know what’s coming ahead and pass some of that along to them.”
NTPS involves extensive pre-training, a challenging flight syllabus in more than 15 aircraft and a graduate-level academic curriculum in aerospace and systems engineering. Future XPs will not only support testing on current aircraft and existing systems, but will join the XP community in supporting critical Army modernization efforts such as the development and fielding of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, and the Improved Turbine Engine as part of Future Vertical Lift.
This second tour at NTPS is something both Fish, his wife and three daughters are looking forward to this go-round. Fish is looking forward to providing some perspective to the aviators going through the course.
Fish explained how busy the course is, and how often one feels like they are scrambling around. “I think some people lose sight of what their end state is, what they are hoping to get out of the course and what’s next for them,” Fish said. “I’m hoping to be able to relate to them and keep them caged on ‘this is why you are doing this,’ and ‘this is the kind of testing your future holds,’ so they can see beyond the school and see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Fish will serve as an instructor for three years at NTPS.