UAV Pilot Test Starts Smooth

The “beta test” that is training junior non-pilot officers to become unmanned aerial vehicle operators is off to an average start. That’s probably a good thing. Of the 10 captains selected to participate in the first test program, which began in January, Gen. Stephen Lorenz, chief of Air Education and Training Command, said eight passed USAF’s Initial Flight Screening Program, which utilizes DA-20 aircraft through a program contracted to Doss Aviation in Pueblo, Colo. That number tracks exactly with the average “pass rate” for conventional pilot candidates headed for specialized undergraduate pilot training. Lorenz said in an interview that 20 captains were selected for the program out of more than 70 non-pilot volunteers, and that the next 10 will begin their program in June. After the beta test is over, these graduates will be evaluated by the Air Force to see how they compare with UAV operators with the traditional pilot background. Only then will USAF decide how large to make the non-pilot UAV pipeline, or whether it should even be continued at all. One thing is certain, Lorenz added: The demand for Predator and Reaper UAV pilots continues to grow.