Located at the edge of the Mojave Desert in Southern California, the United States Test Air Force Test Pilot School (USAF TPS) enjoys the perfect environment for conducting flight test education and development. Clear flying conditions nearly every day of the year, combined with the Air Force Flight Test Center resources, makes Edwards Air Force Base a great training location.
Since its creation in 1944, the school has produced an elite list of roughly 3260 graduates. Alumni include World War II flying aces, astronauts, generals, famous first flight pilots and many of today’s innovative flight test leaders. In addition, there are over 325 international graduates from 24 countries, enhancing allied capabilities and international cooperation. In accordance with our motto, the school believes that Knowledge is Power.
To continue to be the center of expertise for Air Force developmental test and evaluation techniques and theory, the curriculum is reviewed and modified as needed every 6 months. TPS has adapted over time to meet Air Force objectives. Focus has expanded due to specific national efforts, such as when the school provided astronaut training in the early days of space exploration. The length and depth of the course has grown—the school originally trained only pilots but later expanded to include navigators and engineers as systems engineering became standard. Then a remotely piloted aircraft pilot track was added to meet the need for expertise in unmanned aerial vehicle research and development. In more recent years the course began to include Weapons Systems Officers, Combat Systems Officers, and now Space Force members.
The fundamental key to success in aerospace flight test and evaluation is the individual member of the flight test team: the flight test pilot, of course, but nowadays the trained flight test engineer and navigator as well. Without him - and increasingly, her - the fundamental work of the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base would literally be impossible.
Bravery and flying skills of the highest order have always been requirements for the flight test mission, but much more is demanded of today's flight test professionals: scientific and engineering knowledge, critical and reasoned judgment, and managerial skills of the first order. A well-devised flight test program, skillfully carried out, calls forth the absolute performance of the aircraft and its associated systems. Finding the people who are capable of planning and flying such a program is not easy, nor is the process automatic.
Contrary to the romanticized view of old Hollywood films, test pilots are not "born" to their talents - they are painstakingly made. Natural ability in the air is necessary, of course, but a delicate touch on the controls and absolute precision on the air are needed - not slapdash bravado.
The test pilot will be following carefully crafted flight profiles, not daring aerial maneuvers. They must be taught to handle his airplane with extraordinary precision: to control their airspeed to the nearest knot, and their altitude virtually to the foot--every time. Beyond this, the student test pilot must have a natural affinity for mechanical systems, an ability to "feel" the airplane and have a well-honed sense of what is happening at any given time. Mature and reasoned judgment is also vital - human lives, and millions of dollars, depend upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown. But all these skills would be useless without knowledge and training - systematic training in gathering flight data, and then interpreting it. Minutes spent in precision flying must be matched by hours of painstaking effort at computers, in the library, and around the conference table.
It is obvious that in the world of flight testing, there simply is no room for "second best." That is why the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) takes such efforts to make certain that its graduates are the equal to any in their profession.
The Test Pilot School is where the Air Force's top pilots, navigators and engineers learn how to conduct flight tests and generate the data needed to carry out test missions. Human lives and millions of dollars depend upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown. The comprehensive curriculum of Test Pilot School is fundamental to the success of flight test and evaluation.
USAFTPS is authorized by Air University to award the Master of Flight Test Engineering to eligible candidates.
The PSDM can be found on myFSS/myPers TPS Boards are announced by the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC), Randolph Air Force Base. They create announcements in the Personnel Services Delivery Messages (PSDM) system which are then circulated to the military personnel offices and then down through the chain of command. The board announcement is typically made at least 45 days prior to the application due date.
TPS has an annual selection board. This board selects pilots, navigators, and engineers for the classes that start in the subsequent July and subsequent January. Applicants are selected from a highly qualified applicant pool based on several factors including education, flying background, experience and officership. Check application instructions and eligibility requirements specified in AFI 99-107 and the TPS Selection Board Announcement.
Air Force Instruction (AFI) 99-107 is the Air Force Instruction that details the TPS application process and requirements. This instruction is in Adobe Acrobat format. You can download the reader for free. AFI 99-107 was revised in December 2018 and is currently again under revision. Additional requirements may apply. Consult the current TPS Board Announcement.
Applications are typically due in June for the July Board. For civilian engineers applying through their base Long Term Full Time (LTFT) education program, applications may be due to your base's LTFT Board a month or more prior to the published TPS Board due date. Inquire with your local education program early. The TPS application process can be complicated and involves obtaining recommendations, transcripts, and flight physicals. Refer to AFI 99-107 and the annual PSDM TPS Board Announcement for application details and requirements.
AFI 99-107 contains instructions on how to apply. The TPS Board Announcement will have additional details about how to submit forms. Read AFI 99-107 and the Board Announcement thoroughly to understand everything that is required.
Please contact TPS Admissions at (661) 277-3000 if you have questions about the 48-week long Test Pilot School program.
Please contact your supervisors for TPS selection results. Supervisors are notified through Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) sources sooner than the official public release message by roughly a week. Results are typically available from your military personnel office by the end of December.
The PSDM calling for applications is usually released in early March on myFSS/myPers, with application packages commonly due through myVector by mid/end May. Applicants who made the cut will be invited to TPS for the Comprehensive Candidate Evaluation Program (CCEP) in October. Once the final student selection has been made, the final PSDM will come out by the end of December on myFSS/myPers.
The mission of the Space Test Course is to produce adaptive, critical-thinking test professionals to conduct full-spectrum test and evaluation of space-domain systems.
This is an approximately 12-month hands-on program to educate personnel in space domain test and evaluation as part of the USSF effort to increase the trained cadre of T&E professionals.
The curriculum is designed to provide students with tailored education covering test planning, test execution, analysis, and reporting. In addition to test foundational material, students will receive instruction and practical experience covering mission systems, as well as domain science topics such as orbital mechanics, electromagnetic spectrum, sensor science, and space environment. This is intended to provide the student with the broad base of technical knowledge to prepare them for future T&E projects that span a variety of technical areas.
Training will include test processes applicable to both developmental and operational space test; and include classroom, laboratory, and open-air events. Oral and/or written reports will be included in each module.
Fieldtrips are taken to organizations engaged in developing, testing, and producing aerospace vehicles and equipment.
Due to the length of the course, STC requires a PCS to Edwards AFB. All individuals selected for STC will incur a three-year service commitment with a direct placement to a USSF test organization upon graduation.
The 2025 STC Selection Board will select candidates for 25A (class start Jan 2025) and 25B (class start Jul 2025). Potential exists for one combined class to be held in Jul 2025. Further information will be relayed to selected candidates as necessary. The suspense for all application packages is February 23, 2024.
Eligibility Waivers: The request should state the eligibility criterion requiring a waiver and discuss any rationale for waiver approval. Applicants requesting waiver consideration for multiple criteria may submit a single waiver request memorandum. Waivers will be considered after all applications are submitted and will be decided based on the severity of the waiver, selection requirements, and applicant pool. STARCOM S2/3V is the approval authority for eligibility requirement waivers.
Note: Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve officers may apply but will only be selected if a funding strategy is secured for the 1-year school and the minimum 3-year payback tour. Interested Guard and Reserve officer are encouraged to continue to monitor future PSDMs for any updates.
The formal PSDM with full application information can be found HERE.
23 Feb 24: Deadline for Applications & Endorser Inputs
Mar 24: Selection Board
May 24: Final selections published
Direct questions regarding applications or selection to USAF TPS at USAFTPS.STC.Applications@us.af.mil and/or USSF Talent Management Board at HQ.USSF.Talentmgmtboard@spaceforce.mil.
Space Test Fundamentals FAQs
While there are some elements of traditional military training, the course is more oriented toward college level education. There are several blocks of rigorous academics. While there may be a few slower periods, expect the workload to be relatively high. We recommend you do not plan on taking other academics while attending the Space Test Course.
Yes. The PCS will be centrally funded by USSF. However, duty days will need to be provided by home unit..
Yes. There will be a designated follow on USSF assignment for Department of the Air Force members.
No. However, personnel may apply in following years. Also, there will be alternates selected by the selection board.
Students are required to live on Edwards AFB. Base housing is provided. https://www.housing.af.mil/Home/Units/Edwards/
No. Every candidate selected must have or be eligible for TS/SCI Clearance.
Yes. Waivers requests to eligibility criteria should be submitted to USSF Talent Management Board at HQ.USSF.Talentmgmtboard@spaceforce.mil for consideration by USSF/TE.
No, as of 2024 this is a PCS 12-month course. Accompanied travel is approved. Accompanied lodging during class field trips is not approved.
Yes. Department of the Air Force students will incur a three-year service commitment with a direct placement to a USSF test organization upon graduation.
Yes. Please refer to APPENDIX 2 of PSDM 23-11 for service restrictions.
Edwards AFB, CA
Squadron commander (or equivalent) endorsement is required. A letter of recommendation from another professional source may be included. Please refer to PSDM 23-11 for further details.
Probably. Contact USAFTPS.STC.Applications@us.af.mil for evaluation.
Yes. This course is now a 12-month PCS which supports family travel.
Yes. However, it is preferred that you include an informal copy of all transcripts from post-secondary education in your application package in chronological order with the most recent on top.
Not currently. However, selections will be weighted toward individuals who will be able to affect Space T&E programs.
No. The selection board will consider OPBs included with the application package. Please include only the most recent OPB in the application packages.
No. A commander endorsement is required. One additional recommendation will be accepted
TPS is soliciting application packages to select officers for the TPS Faculty-Pipeline PhD program. This opportunity is available to all active duty Air Force graduates of a formal military test pilot school. For instructions on how to apply and specifics on eligibility, click here.
To register on the new USAF TPS Alumni website, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your given name and TPS class number. The site is located at https://www.usaftpsalumni.com/