Team Edwards' Test Operations helps Air Force Academy glide into future

  • Published
  • By Kenji Thuloweit
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
For most Air Force Academy cadets, their introduction to flight begins in a glider.

The basic soaring program at the academy is the largest glider operation in the world, and future officers go up in the gliders before moving on to engine-powered planes.

The academy has recently purchased 19 new gliders to replace aging TG-10B and TG-10C gliders, which brings the action from the mountains of Colorado Springs to the desert landscape of Edwards.

The 445th Flight Test Squadron conducted flight tests with one of the new TG-16A gliders.

The 445th was tasked by Air Education and Training Command to ensure the glider meets the needs of the academy and performs to the specifications the manufacturer has proposed, said Lt. Col. Jason Schott, 445th FLTS commander and Test Operations Combined Test Force director.

"You're taking 18- and 19-year-olds who are going into a career in the Air Force and need to be airpower experts," Schott said. "Many of them have never had any flying experience of their own, so these gliders are going to be the first time for them sitting in the front cockpit of an airplane to experience the thrill of flight."

Flight tests began July 6, flying the two-seat aircraft to see how the glider reacts to differing weight distribution along with takeoff and landing tests.

The glider was towed to takeoff behind a Piper Pawnee prop plane.

Schott and Maj. Andrew Martin of the 416th FLTS, flew the glider up to 10,000 feet the first day of flight tests.

"We've been operating with the glider off and on for the last month. This is the first time we've taken it to the corners of the envelope and really put it through its paces," Schott said.

Throughout the month, Test Ops took the glider through a variety of test points.

"We're doing normal maneuvers, but we're also putting the plane out of control - both upside down and upright. "We want to make sure that no matter what you do to the airplane, it stays predictable and safe."

The test squadron wrapped up the testing at Edwards last week with a cross-wind test to see how the glider performs in high winds.

Both Martin and Schott agree the glider is performing as expected.

"The glider has been handling well with no significant areas of concern at the moment. It is already a fully certified commercial glider, so we did not expect significant issues," Martin said.

"It's a nice, high-performance glider," Schott said. "The academy chose a single glider that does the whole range of its operations."

Now that the glider testing at Edwards is done, the pilots are testing the glider - along with some others - in its operational environment at the Air Force Academy. That testing is scheduled to be completed Aug. 5.

Schott said the glider will also be used in the academy's aerobatic training program.

The Air Force announced the purchase of the new gliders earlier this month.

The $4.8 million buy consists of a total of 19 aircraft and 11 trailers for hauling them. Fourteen TG-16As will replace the current fleet of TG-10Bs, which are used as a basic training sailplane to introduce all Air Force Academy cadets to flight through the Academy's basic soaring program.

The TG-16A is manufactured by DG Flugzeugbau Gmbh, a German company. The gliders are 28 feet long with a wing span of 59 feet.