NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, Patuxent River, Md.– The United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) held a graduation ceremony for Class 159 on July 30th. After an intense 11-month course of instruction for designation as Engineering Developmental Test Pilots, Test Flight Officers, and Test Engineers, 31 students received their diplomas.

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

Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden delivered the keynote address. Bolden is a graduate of USNTPS and former astronaut and NASA administrator.

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

Bolden, Col. Richard Marigliano, commander of Naval Test Wing Atlantic, and Cmdr. Jeremy DeBons, commanding officer of USNTPS, presented diplomas and offered congratulations to the new “Testers.” Graduates included members of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force; students from Italy, Spain, and Sweden; and civil service engineers from the Department of the Navy.

Navy 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 United Kingdom and USNTPS.

Navy Lt. Gordon Finlay received the Cmdr. Willie McCool Outstanding Student Award. This award recognizes the top-performing student in the categories of academics, flight performance, and technical report writing. The namesake award commemorates the U.S. Navy Commander William C. McCool, a USNTPS alumnus tragically lost in the Columbia space shuttle accident.

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

Distinguished graduates from the class include Maj. Alex Horn (fixed wing), Lt. McMillan Hastings (rotary wing), and Maj. Matthew Hamtak (airborne and unmanned systems).

Twenty students completed the requirements for the engineering test pilot course. The new test pilots are:

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

Eight students completed the engineering test flight officer course. They are:

  • Lt. Gordon C. Finlay, U.S. Navy
  • Lt. Robert W. Gates, U.S. Navy
  • Maj. Matthew D. Hamtak, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Lt. Adam D. Meyrick, U.S. Navy
  • Lt. Nicholas L. Myers, U.S. Navy
  • Lt. Karl A. Petracek, U.S. Navy
  • Lt. George K. Philbrick, U.S. Navy
  • Lt. Kyle S. Todd, U.S. Navy

Three students completed the test project engineer course. They are:

  • 1st Lt. Massimo Giangregorio, Italian Air Force
  • Mr. Erik W. Gutenkunst, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division
  • Mr. Steven J. Puffenbarger, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division

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

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