MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Seven years into his military career, Capt. David Horney has become one of two Air Force pilots selected this year for the prestigious U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
The 40th Helicopter Squadron instructor pilot with almost 1,300 flight hours under his belt will move in August with his family to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to join the 2024 academic class.
Horney has been stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base since June of 2019 as a UH-1N Huey pilot with the 40th HS, which is responsible for ensuring strategic security by providing flexible, rapid-response helicopter airlift support to the 341st Missile Wing.
As a helicopter pilot, Horney applied for the USNTPS, which is the only U.S. military test pilot school to offer instruction on rotary-wing aircraft.
Joined by other pilots, flight officers, and engineers from U.S. military services, international aviators/engineers, and civil service engineers, Horney will begin a grueling 48-week course in January 2024 to learn full spectrum test and evaluation of aircraft and aircraft systems.
“I think the most exciting part of the training is getting to fly all the different aircraft,” Horney shared, explaining how his flying experience has so far been limited to the T-6A Texan II, TH-1N Iroquois and UH-1N Huey.
By the time he graduates he will add nearly 15 other aircraft to that list including the T-38C Talon, F/A-18F Super Hornet, C-12 Huron, UH-60 Blackhawk and more.
“It’s going to be pretty wild,” Horney exclaimed of the curriculum. “You basically do homework all morning and then go fly, which is pretty cool. I was really excited [to be selected] and be able to take my experience so far and build on it.”
Each day, students are exposed to classroom instruction, flight and simulator activities, laboratory exercises, data analysis, report preparation and study. The academic rigor demands pupils to be competitive by holding degrees in engineering, physical science or math.
With a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, outstanding professional performance and flight qualification, Horney was a perfect candidate for the course.
“Dave is the guy who went to MIT for grad school but jokes about it,” Capt. Jacques Soto, 40th HS pilot, described of his colleague’s earnestness. “He works hard enough to teach himself to the level that he can teach others; he’s in a position of high administrative workload, but he always accepts flights to complete the mission.”
Horney’s studies will posture him to enhance the future of the flying force by testing aircraft to determine whether they are operationally capable for the U.S. military; this includes the new MH-139 Greywolf helicopter which is expected to replace Malmstrom’s UH-1N Huey.
Test pilots require bravery and flying skills of the highest order as the bridge between developers and users. Their responsibilities include testing performance qualities of aircraft like airspeed calibration, model development, handling qualities and flight controls. Human lives and millions of dollars depend upon how carefully a test mission is planned and flown.
“The test flight community is pretty small, so I look forward to becoming part of it,” Horney said. “You get a lot of input on big programs which makes me look forward to growing my scope of responsibility, but I’ll definitely miss the operations side of things.”
Only after Horney completes the course’s 500 academic hours, 120 flight hours, dozens of oral and written reports, and other challenging curriculum, will he graduate on Christmas Eve of 2024 and move on to a new duty station where his new skills will be implemented.