Ad Inexplorata: Bjorkman retires as AFTC executive director

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys
  • Air Force Test Center

After a distinguished career spanning over four decades, Dr. Eileen A. Bjorkman, a prominent member of the Senior Executive Service, will retire as the Executive Director of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, January 31, 2024.

Bjorkman's remarkable journey in the United States Air Force began when she was commissioned through Officer Training School in 1980. Growing up without a clear career path, she initially majored in engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle before switching to computer science. It was during this time that she encountered an Air Force recruitment opportunity on campus, leading her to explore a career in the military. Her decision to join the Air Force was influenced by evolving opportunities for women in the military. Her father's retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1974 provided a connection, and she decided to explore the possibilities it offered.

Bjorkman's career trajectory within the Air Force showcased her adaptability and resilience. Initially considering navigator training due to poor eyesight, she pivoted towards becoming a flight test engineer after learning about the opportunity at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

By 1986, Bjorkman was helping to finish up the F-16 Fighting Falcon LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) program as the lead flight test engineer. Her work alongside the team at the CTF provided a capability to the CAF that hadn’t been achieved before-- the ability to fly at night, under the weather, and deliver precision-guided munitions on a routine basis; a legacy she is proud to leave behind.

Later, Bjorkman would find herself as the flight test manager for the C-17 Globemaster as it worked toward the achievement of its first flight, another achievement she would look back on roughly 30 years later as the massive aircraft performed humanitarian missions during the withdrawal in Afghanistan.

Reflecting on challenges early in her career, Bjorkman emphasized the lack of a well-defined career path for flight test engineers at the time. Her achievements not only broke barriers for women but also paved the way for flight test engineers in general.

As the “crown jewel” of both her military and civilian endeavors Bjorkman pointed to her work with the Joint Simulation Environment. From the evolution of the concept, starting in the early 2000s, she and a group of others envisioned a virtual test range to enhance testing capabilities using simulators.

Despite initial technological limitations and modest funding, persistence and teamwork eventually brought the project to fruition as technological potential aligned with evolving needs. JSE stands as a testament to the importance of pushing innovative ideas and adapting to changing requirements in the aerospace industry.

Bjorkman's contributions extended beyond her military service. She played a key role in designing and installing Edwards Air Force Base's first computer network in 1988. Additionally, her involvement in preserving Air Force heritage was evident in her support for the museum at Edwards AFB, emphasizing the importance of remembering the achievements that shaped the Air Force's technological advancements.

Beyond the myriad of milestones and accomplishments throughout her career, whether at Holloman, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, or even a squadron at the Pentagon, Bjorkman said the thing she will take away most were the people along the way.

It's really all about people, right? I've been talking about projects and things, but looking back on all the people that I've had the opportunity to mentor over the years and help get into Test Pilot School or go off to Air Command and Staff College or just give them some good career advice,” she said. Being able to help that generation behind me because there were people that helped me along, and being able to pass that along has been very important to me; To be able to have had an impact on at least a few people's lives.”

As Bjorkman approaches her retirement ceremony on January 31, 2024, her colleagues, friends, and family celebrate the legacy of a trailblazer whose career exemplifies resilience, dedication, and a commitment to advancing aerospace technology. For those unable to attend, a livestream of the event is available at 10:00 a.m. PST on YouTube. (Click here

After retiring, Bjorkman has no intentions of pursuing a full-time job. Her primary focus is on building an airplane, a long-standing aspiration that retirement will finally allow her to fulfill. Additionally, she plans to invest time in nonprofit and professional organizations, particularly those with a historical focus. Volunteer work in her local community in Everett, Washington, where she will be relocating, is also on her agenda. Bjorkman is open to embracing opportunities as they arise, maintaining her flexible and adaptive approach to life.

The entire Test Enterprise wishes Dr. Eileen A. Bjorkman a well-deserved and fulfilling retirement, confident that her impact will resonate in the aerospace community for years to come.