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Sat, Dec 20, 2003

Kitty Hawk: Two-Star Test Pilot

"I Look Forward To Putting On My Flight Suit Every Morning"

By ANN Correspondent Rob Milford

Most aviators would like to think they have the “best” job in the business. At least, that's what they'll tell you. This time, however, we may have found the one person who really does.

Major General Doug Pearson, is the commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base (CA). Just sorta gives you chills typing it.  We found him at the VIP viewing area at the Wright Brothers National Monument on Wednesday. He was to witness “first-hand” what the first two test pilots did a century ago.

ANN: What’s new and exciting at Edwards?

Pearson: We have 9 F-22’s on the ramp… all in different parts of the developmental test program. This spring, operational tests will begin, including air-to-air and air combat maneuvering.

ANN: So, you get to wave at the aircraft when they go zooming off each day?

Pearson: Much better than that. I’m checked out in it. As of now, I’m the only General officer flying the aircraft.

ANN (jaw dropping) How does it fly?

Pearson: Well, I started out in F-4’s and went on to F-15’s. I’ve flown around one hundred different aircraft, and the F-22 is awesome. It is, by far, the easiest to fly, anywhere from zero to Mach 2. It talks to you. The mission avionics are a real dream. They have worked out so many of the software issues, and I look forward to putting on my flight suit every morning.

ANN: What else is new on the ramp?

Pearson:  The  YAL-1, the flying battle laser, the 747, is undergoing mods right now. They’re installing the optics, the mirrors, and they will fly with the laser in the spring.

ANN: What else?

Pearson: The Global Hawk is on the ramp, and they continue to do a lot of flying. We have a pair of CV-22 Ospreys, and they’re doing low altitude and terrain following work right now.

The C-130J has still got some testing, and the X-45 and X-43 are being tested by NASA.

ANN: Speaking of which, are they still flying that NB-52B? I remember seeing it on the ramp at Kelly AFB in San Antonio, when it came out of overhaul…with all those hash marks for hundreds of test aircraft drops…

Pearson: That has been retired, and is going in the museum. It’s been replaced with a B-52H that came from the operational fleet. It’s a lot easier to support. Funny thing about that old B-52…for being close to 50 years old, it only had about 3,000 hours of flight time on the airframe.

ANN: So how’s the business of making more test pilots?

Pearson: It is a growth business. Leadership understands the value of the investment, and we’re getting our next generation of aerospace leaders from every class of test pilots and engineers we graduate.

ANN: How’s does it work… the class schedule and all?

Pearson: We run two classes a year…with ten pilots and ten wizzos each. There are two classes per year. They get some great flying experience in a variety of aircraft.

ANN: What’s your call sign?

Pearson:  Aggie. I went to school at Texas A&M, Class of 1969.

(His official Air Force bio shows Pearson with more than 4,000 of flight time, including a combat tour during the Vietnam War)

FMI: www.edwards.af.mil

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