In order to know where you are going you need to know where you came from. Throughout history, individuals having common problems or common goals have ultimately formed organizations to resolve their problems or achieve results not available through individual effort. The organization never results merely from a sincere desire to effect the organization. Some individual with the necessary initiative and drive is needed to establish the desired organization. The group comprising those individuals whose livelihoods encompassed the area of aircraft flight testing as test pilots was no exception. At intervals since the first test flight by Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903, various test pilots have contemplated the advantages of benefiting from other test pilots’ experiences; however, for one reason or another, the idea remained an idea only. In 1955, the required catalyst appeared in the form of Ray Tenhoff, an experimental flight test pilot associated with Northrop Aircraft.1 Ray scheduled an initial meeting of local test pilots in Lancaster, California from various contractors and NACA on September 14, 1955 to discuss the formation of a test pilots’ group. Attendees included: Ray Tenhoff, Northrop; Joe Ozier, Lockheed; Dick Johnson, Convair; Scott Crossfield, NACA; Tom Kilgariff, Douglas; and John Fitzpatrick, Convair. On September 29, 1955, the first organized meeting of the “Testy Test Pilots Society” was held. Ever wonder why the Annual Symposium and Banquet, which will be led again by William “Condor” Koyama and his team in 2024, is always scheduled in the last week of September? On October 13, 1955, the Society’s official name became The Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP). We all stand on the shoulders of these giants whose brilliance saw the need and had the drive to form our Society and draft our Constitution. Thank you for allowing the 2023-2024 Board of Directors the privilege of serving you.
Since I took office in September 2023, the Society voted to adopt four constitutional amendments. The wording in Article III, Section 7. Associate Member was changed to make the requirement easier to understand. Article V Termination and Reinstatement of Active Membership, Section 3 was changed to more accurately reflect the practical timeline required for the Society to address members who run late on their dues. Article XIV Scholarships, Section 2 was changed to bring this section into agreement with another constitutional section that was previously amended and makes it explicit that the Board of Directors must establish guidelines for determining the amount of funds available for the Scholarship Foundation. Additionally, and thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Constitution/SOP Committee led by Greg Lewis (F), several sensible SOP changes were made but unlike the Constitution, did not require a full vote by the membership. If you want to make a change to either the Constitution or SOP all you need to do is submit a request in writing to any Board member or the SETP staff stating the proposed change and rationale and I will ensure it gets addressed. This is your Society!
Our headquarters building located at 44814 Elm Avenue, Lancaster, California, was built in 1963, way before lean manufacturing existed, and it shows. However, like many things in the 60’s, it was built to last. Until December of 2023, the last time our headquarters saw an upgrade was in 1998 with new carpet, green chairs, and furniture. Your Board of Directors were discussing options (sell and move, sell and lease, sell and build) when the HVAC died. Thanks to Laurie’s incredible resourcefulness, she obtained multiple quotes and I interviewed and chose a company and now headquarters has a new “smart” app-controlled HVAC system which will save on energy costs. Stop by if you can. Until December, SFTE was one of our tenants but decided to vacate and go virtual; however, the Antelope Valley chapter of SFTE will remain a tenant. Bottom line, now is not a good time to build, buy or lease a new headquarters.
The SETP Southeast Section held a combined STEM event with SFTE & AIAA on October 27, 2023 at Georgia Tech. This was a big success, particularly from the standpoint of student engagement and STEM outreach. Approximately 15 SETP Members, including myself (a Georgia Tech Alum) and other aerospace professionals were in attendance from Gulfstream, FAA, Army Redstone, Lockheed, and others. Thanks to Wayne Roberts (F) for a fascinating technical presentation and David Kern (AF) for helping to arrange this event.
I am grateful to Giorgio Clementi (AF), CEO of ITPS Canada, for hosting myself and the President of SFTE, Jennifer Uchida, for a 2 day technical symposium on December 14-15, 2023 and an exclusive tour of their state of the art operation. Giorgio’s operation is cutting edge and I was honored to speak to his staff and recent graduates about the benefits of joining SETP. I met at least 2 individuals who are qualified to be members but have not yet joined. I offered to personally shepherd their applications to the Membership Committee and look forward to welcoming them to our Society in 2024.
Question: Where are we headed Toonces?
Answer: My vision includes 3 priorities:
1. Strengthen SETP membership (2484 individuals and 74 corporations as of September 30, 2023) by recruiting every eligible individual and corporation. Many non-member test pilots have enough time and counters as Pilot Flying and have not applied. Why are you not a member of SETP? Many big corporations have understandably scaled back their contribution to SETP but is the savings really that significant? How can the bean counters place a dollar value on the knowledge, experience and value of their company test pilots being active members of SETP?
2. Advocate for robust attendance at all Symposia so that we may all benefit from the live, in person exchange of ideas and to promote safety. Dates/locations are posted here: Symposium/Meetings (setp.org)
3. Promote volunteerism as our industry transforms at a rapid pace. Past Presidents, please guide me. Rogers Smith, Billie Flynn and I had dinner in London, Ontario and they gave me great advice at dinner. I hope I can remember at least 10% of it. New members, please contact me directly or your section board members and ask “what do you need?” and get involved. You were inspired by someone to become a test pilot, now go inspire the next generation.
“A good pilot knows what is happening with his aircraft. A great pilot knows what could happen to his aircraft.”
Carl Pascarell, self-taught test pilot and my mentor
John “Toonces” Tougas (AF)
1. The Society of Experimental Test Pilots, History Of The First 20 Years, Taylor Publishing Co.,