Front Page
Boeing Frontiers
March 2004
Volume 02, Issue 10
Boeing Frontiers
Main Feature

Thrill’s not gone for 'crusty son of a gun'

Fred Knox

Fred KnoxFred Knox wanted to be an engineer when he was growing up. But by the time he was in college, "I decided that flying high-performance planes and being part of developing new systems was what wanted to do," he said.

As one of two Boeing Integrated Defense Systems test pilots assigned to the F/A-22 program, Knox gets to fly the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world. To date, he's accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours in mostly military high-performance jets.

Knox said he received "the best and most affordable" training possible when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1975 and flew F-14s. Following his time in the Navy, Knox joined Rockwell in 1989 and, in 1992, became the company's lead pilot on the X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability Demonstrator.

Along with outstanding operational stick and rudder skills, test pilots need a very technical and critical mind to be successful, Knox said. "Test pilots live in an extremely technical world, and an important part of our job is interfacing with engineers and aircraft technicians daily," he said. "A good test pilot should always question and never assume."

After a stint as the Boeing chief test pilot for the Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstration program, Knox in 2001 took his experience and skills to the F/A-22 program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. There, he flies test sorties to support completion of F/A-22 development. He flies F-15 "chase" aircraft, as well.

Knox said that as soon as he's assigned a flight, he flies it in his head, covering all test points from takeoff to landing. He believes it helps increase test efficiency and ensures fewer surprises, he said.

Flying actually takes up only about 30 percent of Knox's time. The rest is spent interacting with engineers, avionics experts and pilots; reviewing and updating test plans; and helping update and expand the flight manual. "I really am just one of many working hard to ensure this program is successful," Knox said. "My Boeing teammates, as well as those at Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force, rely on me for flight feedback and I rely on their input just as much."

Knox said he considers himself fortunate and is looking forward to tacking on more flight hours to his total: "Even as an old crusty son of a gun, the kid in me still thinks, 'Gee, I get to fly fighter airplanes for a living.'"

—Chick Ramey


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