Paul Metz, along with Jim Sandberg, were Northrop Test Pilots assigned to the ATF Programme. Paul was the very first pilot to fly any ATF prototype, becoming airborne on 27 August 1990, in
Paul has the distinction, not only of being the first airborne in an ATF, but of being the only person to fly both the
Note the red cord dangling from the nose of the aircraft. This was installed as a temporary measure to allow the pilot to readily gauge sideslip during the first flights. The white zig zag panels near Paul's knee are the weapons bay spoilers, designed to create vortexes which help smooth weapon launch. The red bracket on the ejection seat rail is a mounting for a video camera, which would have been used in spin tests to monitor instruments.
Alfred 'Paul' Metz was born in Springfield Ohio in 1946. He was already hooked on airplanes by the time he could walk and he always wanted to fly. He recalls building models and reading all about airplanes and their pilots. He knew he wanted to be a test pilot when he built a model of the D-558 Skyrocket and read about the NACA test pilots, like Scott Crossfield, who flew these beautiful experimental airplanes. In time, he went to university and received a Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Ohio State University, in 1968. Since then, his graduate studies have been in Aeronautical Engineering at Ohio State and California State University in Fresno, and Aviation Safety at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey California.
Paul joined the USAF in 1968 and flew operational combat missions in F-105G Wild Weasels in the Viet Nam War. He flew 68 missions over North Vietnam and took part in the pivotal '12 Days of Christmas' raids in December 1972. His combat sorties against surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft gun sites in support of strike missions in North Vietnam, flown day and night, earned him two Distinguished Flying Crosses and six Air Medals.
After the war he decided to become a test pilot. He attended and graduated from the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1976 and served there: conducting avionics, flying qualities, engine, and flutter tests on the Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II. In 1978, he became an instructor pilot at the US Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland.
Metz then left military service and joined Northrop Aircraft in 1980 as an Engineering Test Pilot. He conducted flight tests on the F-5E/F and F-20 Tigershark. In October 1985, he was appointed Chief Test Pilot for Northrop Aircraft, supervising flight tests of the F-20 Tigershark, the RF-5E Tiger Eye, and others. When the ATF program came along, he and his staff of test pilots worked closely with engineers in the detailed design of the YF-23. He made the first flight of the YF-23A Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype in August 1990, becoming the the first pilot to fly any of the ATF entrants. He subsequently spent two years as an engineering test pilot on the B-2 bomber program. He was an Engineering Test Pilot and Chief Test Pilot for Northrop Aircraft for 12 years.
In 1992, he received the Ivan C. Kincheloe Award, the test pilot profession's highest award, for his flight testing of the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype.
Paul then left Northrop to become Lockheed Martin's Chief Test Pilot for the F-22A Raptor Advanced Tactical Fighter EMD Phase. He served in this role from 1992 to 2001 and made the first flight in the
In 2001 he worked on Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and was named the Vice President for Integrated Test and Evaluation. He was responsible for a $750 million flight test program for the USAF, USN, USMC, and 7 other nations. He served in this capacity until his retirement in February 2006.
In 2002 he was enshrined in the Aerospace Walk of Honor at Lancaster, California, the gateway to the USAF Flight Test Center at Edwards. In 2008 he was inducted into the USAF Gathering of Eagles.
In March 2008 Paul Metz joined Rocketplane Global as Vice President and Chief Test Pilot. He is responsible for the pilot-vehicle interface: to include the cockpit, flying qualities, life support, spacecraft operational profiles and procedures, crew and passenger training, and execution of test and operational flights. He will also work closely with the engineers developing the flight control system to ensure the best possible flying qualities for the vehicle and develop and supervise the training programs for passengers and future XP pilots.
Paul has been involved in three complete vehicle developments, from concept to flight test, as Chief Test Pilot for the F-20, the YF-23 and the F-22. In addition, he has had significant involvement during the development and flight testing phases of the F-5, B-2, and F-35. He has over 7,000 hours and more than 37 years of experience flying over 70 aircraft types including the F-86, F-105, F-4, F-5, F-15, F-20, YF-23 and F-22. He is a Fellow and past-President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and has written numerous articles on the flight test of modern fighter aircraft. He is a worthy successor to and modern day equivalent of Chuck Yeager.
Last updated October 2011.
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