Class 159 graduates of the United States Naval Test Flight School | |

Graduates of Class 159 of the United States Naval Test Pilot School are pictured in front of the school’s plane, including the freshly painted T-38C Talon exhibit bird, after a graduation ceremony at the base Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, July 30, 2021 (U.S. Navy photo)

NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, PATUXENT RIVER, Maryland – The United States Naval Test Flight School (USNTPS) hosted a graduation ceremony for Class 159 on July 30. After an intensive 11-month course of instruction for designation as Technical Development Test Pilots, Test Flight Officers and Test Engineers, 31 students graduated.

Retired Major-General Charles Bolden delivered the opening remarks. Bolden is a graduate of USNTPS and a former astronaut and administrator of NASA.

“Follow your passion and know why doing what you do matters,” Bolden said. “I know why this is important; we protect and defend the constitution.

Bolden, Col. Richard Marigliano, commanding officer of Naval Test Wing Atlantic, and Cmdr. Jeremy DeBons, USNTPS Commander, awarded the diplomas and congratulated the new “Testers”. Graduates included members of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force; students from Italy, Spain and Sweden; and civil service engineers from the Ministry of the Navy.

Marine Lt. Kyle Todd received the Outstanding Developmental Phase II award, which recognizes the student who produced the best final report. The award is symbolic of the longstanding and mutually supportive relationship between the Empire Test Pilots’ School in the UK and the USNTPS.

Navy Lt. Gordon Finlay received Cmdr. Willie McCool Award for Outstanding Student. This award recognizes the top performing student in the academic, flight performance, and technical report writing categories. The namesake award commemorates US Navy Commander William C. McCool, a former USNTPS student tragically lost in the Space Shuttle Columbia crash.

Marine Corps Maj. Alex Horne received the Capt Syd Sherby Leadership Award. The award, named after the founder of the test pilot training division, now USNTPS, recognizes the student who demonstrates exemplary leadership.

Distinguished graduates of the promotion include: Major Alex Horn (fixed wing), Lieutenant McMillan Hastings (rotary wing) and Major Matthew Hamtak (airborne and unmanned systems).

Twenty students completed the requirements for the Pilot Engineering Test Course. The new test pilots are:

  • Captain James N. Bashford, United States Army
  • Captain Matthew C. Blessing, US Air Force
  • Captain Klas F. Boudrie, Swedish Air Force
  • Lieutenant Dominic J. Busto, US Navy
  • Lieutenant Nicholas J. Corey, US Navy
  • Major Tyler W. Davenport, United States Marine Corps
  • Captain Adam J. Fulling, United States Army
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class Caleb N. Grandy, US Army
  • Lieutenant McMillan J. Hastings, US Navy
  • Major Alex C. Horne, United States Marine Corps
  • Lt. Cmdr. Fabio Laporta, Italian Navy
  • Lieutenant Alexandra R. Mensing, US Navy
  • Captain Minator Michele, Italian Air Force
  • Lieutenant Ryan R. Moeller, US Navy
  • Captain Alejandro Molero Salvatierra, Spanish Air Force
  • Lieutenant Nicholas A. Padleckas, US Navy
  • Captain Bryan J. Pulicari, United States Army
  • Lieutenant Mitchell G. Smith, US Navy
  • Captain Bennet L. Thomas, United States Marine Corps
  • Lieutenant Spencer D. Smith, US Navy

Eight students completed the Technical Test Flight Officer Course. They are:

  • Lieutenant Gordon C. Finlay, US Navy
  • Lieutenant Robert W. Gates, US Navy
  • Major Matthew D. Hamtak, United States Marine Corps
  • Lieutenant Adam D. Meyrick, US Navy
  • Lieutenant Nicholas L. Myers, US Navy
  • Lieutenant Karl A. Petracek, US Navy
  • Lieutenant George K. Philbrick, US Navy
  • Lieutenant Kyle S. Todd, US Navy

Three students took the Test Project Engineer course. They are:

  • 1st Lieutenant Massimo Giangregegorio, Italian Air Force
  • Mr. Erik W. Gutenkunst, Aircraft Division of the Naval Air Warfare Center
  • Mr. Steven J. Puffenbarger, Aircraft Division, Naval Air Warfare Center

The USNTPS trains pilots and engineers in the development, testing and evaluation of aircraft. The USNTPS is a component of the Naval Test Wing Atlantic, a test wing of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, Maryland. NAWCAD advances the capability and operational readiness of naval aviation.

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