NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Maj. Robert Guyette, the test pilot who last year led the team of engineers in resolving mission critical deficiencies with the F-35 helmet mounted display, was honored as the Test Pilot of the Year during a ceremony Feb. 8.
Guyette, F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force test pilot, received the award from the John H. Glenn Squadron of the Marine Corps Aviation Association at NAS Patuxent River during the 13th annual awards ceremony at the River’s Edge Catering and Conference Center here.
Guyette took the lead above many of his peers who represented all of the test squadrons at NAS Pax River as well as China Lake, Calif.
In addition to helping resolve the helmet display issue—which is now with industry partners for final production—his efforts helped to bring the F-35 closer to completing the system development and demonstration phase having served as the project officer for 10 test teams, the pilot for nearly 100 F-35 test plans, and completing more than 600 test points in 2017 for the B and C variants.
Guyette’s missions were dedicated to testing the flying and handling of both the F-35B and F-35C in “the most dynamic and challenging environments,” Lt. Col. Gary Shill, Pax River ITF deputy director, penned in Guyette’s award package. As a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) weapons expert, Guyette not only conducted high risk tests at high Mach numbers and dynamic pressures, he also executed high risk STOVL mode tests close to the ground.
“His tenacity enabled expansion of the flight envelope for current and future blocks of all F-35B/C aircraft,” Shill wrote.
In its 13th year, the JGS MCAA annual awards recognize “the entire package,” said Col. Steven Girard, Commanding Officer of the Marine Aviation Detachment and of the JGS MCAA.
“Not only do we consider the ‘first ofs’ on the test pilot side of the house, but also how the pilot took what they learned in the aircraft and applied that to the tactics, techniques and procedures for the fleet to use,” he said. “[Guyette] did the whole gamut of ‘first of’ tests and he put it forward to practical application for the fleet to use.”
Taking it to the fleet, Guyette developed the foundations for the F-35 basic fighter maneuvers tactics; his flight test results were used for mission planning of the first operational deployment of the F-35B earlier this year and will also be used for the F-35C operational test and evaluation period later this year.
The U.S. Naval Academy graduate said he’s been fascinated with aviation and technology since childhood.
“I have always been curious about flight, and more broadly, technology,” Guyette said. “I am constantly taking things apart and wondering about how machines and computers do what they do. This predisposition led me to pursue an Aerospace Engineering degree while at the U.S. Naval Academy, where many of the military instructors are experienced test pilots.”
Even with dozens of “firsts” under his belt as a test pilot developing the fifth generation fighter, Guyette said his most memorable is landing an F-35B vertically on a ship for the first time.
“Despite all of the training, preparation and practice, there is something magical about hovering a fixed-wing airplane over a moving ship,” he said. “It breaks through the stoicism and generates an emotional response. The capability that a hovering F-35B brings to the Marine Corps is not evolutionary, but revolutionary, and when you touch down on the deck for the first time, you realize that the airplane will make a lasting contribution to securing our way of life.
“The airplane’s performance is truly a testament to the talent, vision, dedication and hard work of our engineers,” he added.
Other award winners include Acquisition Officer of the Year, Lt. Col. Kate Fleeger from the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (PMA-263); and Acquisition Staff Non-commissioned Officer of the Year, Gunnery Sgt. Peter Montalvo from the Navy and Marine Corps’ Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261).
Photo Caption: NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, Patuxent River, Md. –– F-35 Integrated Test Facility pilot Dan Canin executes an intentional departure from controlled flight test in F-35C carrier variant aircraft CF-5 Nov. 19, 2013 in the Atlantic Test Ranges. The F-35C carrier variant of the Lightning II is distinct from the F-35A and F-35B variants with its larger wing surfaces and reinforced landing gear to withstand catapult launches and deck landing impacts associated with the demanding aircraft carrier environment. The F-35C is undergoing flight test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River prior to delivery to the fleet. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)