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

‘Nothing Quite Like Flying A Tiltrotor’

Tom Macdonald

Tom MacdonaldAs V-22 chief test pilot for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Tom Macdonald has seen his share of ups and downs. He has experienced the highs of pushing the aircraft to uncharted technical territory, and the saddening lows of losing teammates and friends in a series of tragic accidents. Through it all, Macdonald has maintained a positive outlook and a commitment to flight-test excellence. "It's important to stay focused on delivering safe, reliable aircraft to our customers," he said.

Macdonald joined the Boeing V-22 program in 1991, and flew the Osprey shortly thereafter. His logbook includes flights in more than 20 military and civilian aircraft, from fixed-wing jets to attack helicopters. Topping the list, said Macdonald, is the V-22, a multimission, multiservice tiltrotor developed and produced by Boeing IDS in Philadelphia and Bell Helicopter Textron in Fort Worth, Texas. The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter and, once airborne, rotate its engine nacelles forward to convert to airplane mode.

Macdonald said he'll never forget his first Osprey flight, especially when the aircraft converted from helicopter to airplane mode: the Osprey accelerated from a dead-stop hover to 250 knots within a little more than a minute. "As much as I've loved flying every one of those airplanes and helicopters, nothing has been as fun and professionally satisfying as the Osprey," he said. "There simply is nothing quite like flying a tiltrotor."

With more than 30 years of flight-test experience, Macdonald said he realizes that a pilot is only as good as his flying mates and the technical staff members who keep the aircraft flying safely. "Without a true commitment to teamwork at every level of the V-22 program, we would have been extinct years ago," he said.

Macdonald has flown some of the most dangerous and untested areas of the V-22's flight envelope, including high rate of descent and vortex ring state tests. For his work in this area, Macdonald received last year's Society of Experimental Test Pilot's Kincheloe Award, which recognizes outstanding professional accomplishment in flight test.

—Kirsti Dunn and Doug Holmes


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