From a love of math and airplanes to an exciting career in the Air Force

Tom Hill, BS’84, Experimental Test Pilot

Tom Hill, BS 1994

Air Refueling a highly modified
NF-15B while conducting
a test for the NASA
Dryden Flight Research Center.

I received my BS in Aerospace Engineering back in 1984. I remember very clearly my time at UofM and how it contributed to a wonderful career as an Experimental Test Pilot. Without my degree, I’m sure I would not be where I am today. After graduation, I was commissioned a 2Lt in the USAF. I started as a F-4 Weapons System Officer (WSO) and eventually went to pilot training. That led me to the F-15 and other excellent aircraft. I got my career dream by attending the USAF Test Pilot School in 1994 in Class 94B. The school is a graduate level program teaching the theory and application of engineering principals in the flight test arena. This course opened doors to amazing flight test missions in a huge variety of aircraft. I flew tests in aircraft varying from the RU-38 twin-motor glider to fighters such as the F-15 and F-18. In the last 30 years since graduation, I’ve flown 50+ aircraft, 6,000 hrs, and conducted a huge array of interesting tests. I am now at the USAF Test Pilot School guiding the long term strategy of its curriculum. The discipline I learned earning a UofM degree established a solid foundation for the many challenges I had first to excel as a military aviator, then as an experimental test pilot. Without that firm background, I’m positive I would not be where I am today.

Engineering is an exciting field. For me, I found my niche by bridging the divide between traditional engineering and the operational community. The interesting thing is I had no idea how incredible this career would be when I was at UofM. I only knew I liked math and airplanes. It seemed like a natural fit. Looking back, I can see how having an Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Michigan set me up for future success. The academic discipline/leadership I learned and the reputation of our school enable me to succeed in the demanding flight test arena beyond my wildest dreams. I am sure today’s graduates are being setup with the same great start. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story. Go Blue!

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