Maryland Senator John D. “Jack” Bailey (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) recently toured the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River to learn about its mission to train developmental test pilots, flight officers, engineers, and partners in cutting-edge techniques for testing and evaluating aircraft and aircraft systems.
USNTPS commanding officer Cmdr. Glenn P. “Neo” Rioux began the tour with a briefing on the history and mission of the school, which was established in 1945. USNTPS is in the forefront of developing the latest test flight test techniques and standardization for use in testing military and commercial aircraft. Rioux explained that USNTPS is the only school in the United States that offers training for rotary wing test pilots and serves as the U.S. Army’s dedicated test pilot school. Nearly 100 NASA astronauts are USNTPS graduates. Rioux also pointed out that many of the school’s civilian employees are local residents.
As a member of the Senate’s education subcommittee, Bailey was very interested in learning about the school’s educational mission and expressed his desire to help the school strengthen its connections with other educational institutions in St. Mary’s County, including the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland, where nine colleges and universities currently offer programs in education, management, engineering, and the applied sciences. Located near the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport, USMSM is just six miles up the road from NAS Patuxent River.
Bailey also offered his support for the idea of awarding master’s degrees to USNTPS graduates upon completion of their 11-month course of study, which would make the school more attractive to students and with other test pilot programs around the world that offer similar degrees. He also suggested exploring ways to strengthen the school’s ties with other academic research and development projects in the region, such as the University of Maryland’s drone test facility in Crisfield and its aviation sciences program in Salisbury, and NASA’s Wallops Island rocket test facility, all of which are located across the Chesapeake Bay.
Marine Corps Maj. Camille “Vigo” Lampert, a rotary wing instructor at USNTPS, guided Bailey and his chief of staff, Christina Vigorito, through the school’s flight simulation lab, which is a critical component of students’ ground training. In the lab, students learn about the practical applications of subjects they study in class, such as aerodynamics, thermodynamics, electro-optics, and radar, before using those systems to collect data during test flights.
The tour culminated in a visit to the two USNTPS hangars, which house the 44 fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft that students use to complete their required 120 flight hours over as many as 100 sorties. During the tour, Bailey shared reminiscences from his time in the Covert Operations Unit of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police, when he flew in aircraft on drug interdiction missions.
“It was a pleasure hosting Sen. Bailey and Ms. Vigorito for their visit,” Rioux said. “I’m looking forward to working with the Senator and his staff to develop some of the exciting ideas we discussed about how USNTPS can broaden our students’ experience by taking advantage of the wide range of educational opportunities in the area.”