June 5, 1961: Aerospace Research Pilot School First Class

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The First class of the Aerospace Research Pilot School began on this day.  The class consisted of four permanent members of the Test Pilot School and one from the  Air Force Flight Test Center’s Directorate of Flight Test. The initial class offered the instructors valuable teaching experience as the Aerospace Research Pilot Course transitioned to the task of training aerospace research pilots.

Inspired by the Royal Air Force's Empire Test Pilots' School, Col Ernest K. Warburton, chief of the Flight Test Section at Wright Field, Ohio, set about changing the role and status of flight testing in the U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF). His goals for the flight test community included standardization and independence, which became realized with the establishment of the Air Technical Command Flight Test Training unit on September 9, 1944.] and the independent Flight Test Division in 1945. The AAF possessed a formal program of study to train young pilots to become flight test professionals.  Shortly after the first class graduated, officials changed the name of the school to the Flight Section School Branch incorporating an increased focus on academic theory.  In 1945, the school moved to Vandalia, Ohio, James M. Cox Dayton International Airport,  The school once again changed its name to the Flight Performance School and fell under the responsibility of Lt Col John R. Muehlberg, the first official school commandant. 

 On February 4, 1951 the school transferred to Edwards Air Force Base. The enormous dry lake bed, extremely long runways, and clear weather served the U.S. Air Force and the school well, as aircraft performance continued to increase.  The schoolhouse took residence in an old weather-beaten wooden hangar along the flight line of what became known as South Base.  Although the quarters were spartan, the weather was superb with only two flying days lost due to weather in the first seven months of operation.  Taking advantage of the calm morning air, students started the day flying missions to collect test data.  Afternoons were spent in the lecture hall, and evenings were devoted to reducing data from the day's flights  Once reduced, the data were woven into a report that summarized the test and the student's conclusions.  Student enrollment issues improved in 1953, when the school was moved out of Air Research and Development Command, thus allowing for the selection boards to draw from a much larger, USAF-wide, pool of applicants, rather than just the local test squadrons.

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