Test center reflects on year.jpg

This was a busy year for the Redstone Test Center.

In 2019, the center welcomed a new commander and also took time to remember those fallen experimental test pilots whose service and sacrifice illustrate the dangerous, but important work being done to support the warfighter. The center also supported a milestone on the road to future human space flight, and celebrated a birthday this year.

In 2020, RTC will continue executing its important test and evaluation mission in support of Army modernization and Army readiness.

Center’s new commander

RTC welcomed a new commander in 2019.  Col. Steven Braddom assumed command from Col. John Jones during a ceremony in September at RTC’s Test Area One.  

Before serving as RTC commander, Braddom was the director of the Aviation Development Directorate-Eustis at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The Columbus, Ohio, native was commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy in the aviation branch in 1993. Braddom and his wife, Jennifer, have two daughters, Ashley and Katherine.

Jones, retiring from the Army after 30 years of service, says he plans to remain in Huntsville and continue to support our nation’s warfighter. He also has two children, Ian and Zoey.

Flight test directorate

Lt. Col. Joe Minor assumed command of the RTC’s Aviation Flight Test Directorate during a ceremony in August at the Redstone Army Airfield.

Minor is no stranger to the center or AFTD. His first flight test assignment was at AFTD where he served as an AH-64D/E test pilot, and chief of the Integrated Systems Test Division before deploying to Afghanistan in 2012 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Before serving as AFTD commander, Minor served as assistant program manager for the Advanced Aviation Assessment Program Office at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Minor is a native of Grants Pass, Oregon. He is a 2001 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy where he earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.

AFTD’s previous commander, Lt. Col. Cornelius Allen Jr., relinquished command in July and is heading to Senior Service College at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.

Fallen tester memorial

Experimental test pilots take calculated risks as part of their job. Sadly, on very rare occasions, those risks can turn tragic and result in the loss of life.  A memorial to honor fallen test pilots now stands near the front door of the main hangar at AFTD. On the granite monument are 28 names, etched in stone, forever remembered for their sacrifice conducted during flight test.

The monument was first dedicated 14 years ago at Cairns Army Airfield at Fort Rucker, the then home to the Army’s experimental test pilot community. Family and friends of those 28 fallen heroes gathered in October to rededicate the monument at its new home on Redstone Arsenal.

Retired Maj. Gen. James Myles, then commander of the Army Test and Evaluation Command, of which RTC is a subordinate organization, was also on hand for the ceremony, as he was back in 2005 when the memorial was first dedicated.  

During his closing remarks, Myles reflected on the importance of remembering the names etched on the monument. “Quite simply, without XPs, risking their lives to drive down risk and maximize the capabilities of every aircraft on the battlefield today, thousands of Soldiers don’t come home,” he said.

ATEC/RTC anniversaries

Redstone Test Center’s Commander Col. Steven Braddom gathered with RTC teammates in October to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Army Test and Evaluation Command.

Since the 1950s, the Army has undergone major changes in its approach to test and evaluation, providing needed support to systems acquisition. After many reorganizations and consolidations throughout the Army, ATEC was formed on Oct. 1.

RTC also marked its 10th anniversary in August. The Aviation Technical Test Center from Fort Rucker and the Redstone Technical Test Center from Redstone Arsenal consolidated in 2009 forming the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center. The creation of RTC was the last action to merge aviation and missile test efforts into a single command.

Center milestones

The Army has conducted artificial and natural icing tests since the early 1970s.  Training for those tests takes place in North Alabama conducted by highly-skilled experimental test pilots, flight test engineers and flight engineers at RTC’s Aviation Flight Test Directorate.

Redstone Test Center is moving the icing system, known as the Helicopter Icing Spray System, from the legacy CH-47D helicopter to the current generation F-model platform. The goal of the flight training is to discover and document any changes to flight characteristics between the CH-47D and CH-47F while flying with the HISS installed.

The HISS is designed to provide artificial icing conditions and is used as part of the icing certification for military and civilian aircraft. The HISS system on the new Chinook is testing this winter in Marquette, Michigan.

Space program testing

Teammates at the Redstone Test Center played a significant role in a milestone this year regarding the future of human space flight. RTC engineers successfully tested the jettison motor for the Launch Abort System on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The test of the jettison motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne took place in October. The motor tested was the third of three qualification motors static fired at the center.

During the third and final hot fire test, the jettison motor was fired for under two seconds in ambient temperatures to produce more than 40,000 pounds of thrust. With the series of static tests completed, Orion’s LAS jettison motor is qualified and ready for flight on the Artemis II mission with astronauts.

According to NASA, the Artemis lunar exploration program includes sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to study the moon, landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, and establishing a sustained presence by 2028.

Individual honorees

The Army Broken Wing Award is an honor that first requires an in-flight emergency situation. So, naturally, it’s something most aviators would like to avoid. However, the award is earned by demonstrating a high degree of professional skill to recover the aircraft from danger.

RTC Experimental Test Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sylvia Grandstaff is now a recipient of the Broken Wing Award.  She demonstrated such skill during an in-flight equipment malfunction during a training mission in 2016 while a student at experimental test pilot school.

Grandstaff and her instructor pilot, Barbara Gordon, were conducting a curriculum performance demonstration flight when their aircraft experienced a catastrophic engine failure.  Both aviators had only seconds to perform the appropriate coordinated emergency actions to prevent loss of life and destruction of the aircraft.

Maj. Gen. Joel Tyler, commander of the Test and Evaluation Command, presented Grandstaff with her Broken Wing honor during his visit to the center in March. Gordon is set to receive her Broken Wing award at a later date.

Department of the Army experimental developer Kevin Minor has worked for a decade to advance the science of aviation, component failure analysis and materials analysis at the center.   

Minor’s professional reputation has led to the highest priority failure analysis problems being directed his way due to his cutting-edge knowledge and ability. Those traits were recognized earlier this year when the National Defense Industrial Association honored Minor with the Army Government Civilian Tester of the Year Award.

“The effectiveness of Dr. Minor’s analysis and products have been recognized by senior Army leaders on multiple programs,” Steve Nine, director of RTC’s Environmental and Component Test Directorate, said. “His individual dedication, knowledge, expertise, and leadership in this critical analysis and testing led directly to improved quality and safe equipment for the warfighter.”

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