REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Oct. 23, 2023) – “Everything is much harder when you are up in the air.”
Spoken like a true flight test engineer. U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Dillon Snyder recently had the opportunity to live that motto while training with pilots and engineers from across the world. Snyder, an electrical engineer based at DEVCOM AvMC’s Fort Eustis location, was selected as the first Army engineer to attend a one-year program at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California.
Traditionally, Army engineers attend the Naval Test Pilot School, but those slots have become less available in recent years. Although civilian-run, the National Test Pilot School is one of the few programs worldwide that is considered on par with military test pilot schools.
“Primarily, students at the National Test Pilot School are members of the military from other nations. While I was there, my class was composed of personnel from the Israeli Air Force, the Italian Air Force, the Royal Thai Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the German Air Force,” Snyder said.
At Fort Eustis, Snyder works primarily with Black Hawk helicopters. Not only did the school provide the opportunity to broaden his experience in a variety of rotorcraft, in the process he also earned a master’s degree in flight test engineering, as NTPS is a fully accredited graduate school.
Snyder, an Arizona native, earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Arizona State University. After working in the cyber security sector, he learned that DEVCOM AvMC was looking for electrical engineers at Fort Eustis. A drone hobbyist, he said it was an opportunity to take that interest and pursue it professionally.
“This is a really supportive environment, in particular with regards to professional development and always making sure that opportunities to learn are made available and advertising them as much as possible,” he said.
Snyder highly recommends the program to his fellow flight test engineers to increase their experience in the air – something that can be slow to accumulate in a regular working environment.
“You will become more confident and more proficient -- and quicker when you're running test points in the air. And you're going to have the opportunity to do a lot of different types of tests that might give you some idea of what you want to focus on in the future.
“There’s no substitute for it – you can’t get this experience on the ground.”
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.