Marine Capt. Rebecca Massey
V- 22 Test Pilot
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 21 (HX- 21)
Patuxent River, Md.
“I was interested in
rotary-wing aviation all
along. That was part of
the reason the V- 22 was
my top choice. I felt it
would give me the best
of both worlds: You get
to do helicopter-type
missions, but you still
get to go faster and do
Iam from Athens, Ga., and attended Georgia Tech, where I earned a bach- elor’s degree in aerospace engineering. I always wanted to be a pilot,
preferably a military pilot. I got my private pilot license when I was in college. While I was a freshman, I saw a poster in my dorm advertising Officer
Candidate School (OCS). It was specifically advertising aviation contracts.
I liked the idea of becoming a Marine, not just a pilot, and so I kept that
poster in the back of my mind throughout college.
After college, I worked in acquisitions for the Army Evaluation Center in
Alexandria, Va. I was involved in numerous flight tests while working for the
Army, which furthered my interest in becoming a pilot. So I applied for the
Marine Corps while there as a civilian. After OCS, I completed The Basic
School in Quantico, Va., and then completed flight school.
I was assigned to fly the V- 22 Osprey out of flight school; it was my top
choice. I was interested in rotary-wing aviation all along. That was part of
the reason the V- 22 was my top choice. I felt it would give me the best of
both worlds: You get to do helicopter-type missions, but you still get to go
faster and do airplane-type flying.
Overall, the V- 22 is pretty easy to fly. It doesn’t have the same flight controls as a typical helicopter, but we have lots of simulator time and, as
somebody who had very limited helicopter experience before, it wasn’t a
huge challenge to transition to the different controls.
In a helicopter, the collective [control] goes up to add power, whereas
in the Osprey, the thrust-control lever goes forward to add power. You hear
now and then about pilots getting that backwards if they have a ton of helicopter experience, but usually it’s not really an issue at all.
My first operational squadron was Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron
266 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. I deployed to Iraq and
later deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. While on the second deployment, I got picked up for Test Pilot School (TPS) and moved to
Patuxent River, Md.
Test Pilot School was a very demanding course and a rewarding experience. I got to fly more than 10 different types of aircraft. I did a lot of report
writing. It was definitely a different side of looking at flying. I graduated from
TPS in June 2012 and was assigned to HX- 21 as a V- 22 test pilot.
I like the variety of the things we get to do. We get to fly new systems or
software and evaluate them prior to them going out to the fleet. There’s a different type of flight every day. Some flights are certainly more risky than others, but risk management is always incorporated into flight planning.
Professionalism, communication skills and fleet experience are all
important traits for a test pilot. Growing up, I participated in activities like
gymnastics and dance. These activities instilled good time management
and discipline because I spent so much time outside of school participating in those activities.
What motivates test pilots to do our best is getting the right system out
to the fleet, thinking of other Marines, whether they’re flying the aircraft,
maintaining the aircraft, or riding in the back. ■