USAF Test Pilot School

Jan - July 1958




Test Pilot School

From January to July 1958, I attended TPS Class 58A with future Mercury astronaut candidates; Captains Hal Ekeren, Arch Iddings, and Bob Bell. Our Performance Instructor was another future Mercury candidate, Captain Robert H. Jacobson.

The curriculum consisted of 3 months performance and 3 months stability and control. You really felt like a select group because the staff treated you that way. Many of us had only flown F-86Ds, but instead of an extensive briefing and ground school you just filled out a simple questionnaire about the about the aircraft systems and went out and flew it.

We flew most missions solo except for the B-57 which was used for many stability and control flights. It was unique in that the instructor could vary the stability by transferring fuel. We flew a limited number of "buddy" flights with another student because there was no instrumentation in the airplanes and all the data had to be recorded by hand.

The Right Touch

Most flight test requires precise and smooth stick movement. On the other hand acrobatic flying such as the thunderbirds requires more yank and bank on the part of the wingman. It can't be seen from the ground, but that stick is moving most of the time. I didn't particularly like to make buddy flights with my TPS classmate, Bob Bell, a former thunderbird pilot, when I was the guy taking down readings rather than flying. He was a good pilot, but very rough on the controls. Unfortunately, Bob was killed in VN.



Spin Maneuver

I was to do spin tests in the T-28 using hands off recovery. The procedure was to enter the spin, hold it for 3 turns, then release the controls. We started at 12K above the terrain, and if recovery couldn't be made, the procedure was to get rid of the canopy at 7K, and climb out - no ejection seats - at 5.5K. This particular flight was called a buddy flight because another student was in the back seat writing down data. The classmate with me was Capt. Jesse Locke.

After doing the spin maneuver to the right, I tried one to the left. I released the controls arfter 3 turns, and 3 additional turns later it was still merrily spinning away. So I tried the standard NACA recovery which was opposite rudder to the direction of spin, and neutralize the stick. It kept right on spinning…

I tried a NACA modified recovery where you popped the stick full forward. After a couple of turns it finally recovered. Jesse and I discussed each recovery procedure during this time, without even thinking about the altitude. We then realized I had recovered at 2.5K feet without either of us even considering getting rid of the canopy, or bailing out. I guess that's another type of target fixation. I am sure the cockpit was flooded with adrenaline.


Aircraft Flown

F-86E&F, T-33, T-28, B-57