New F-15 pilot tests the limits

  • Published
  • By Angela Woolen
  • Robins Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Gustuf Palmquist has been flying since he was an infant.

His great grandfather flew during the Wright brother days and his grandfather and both of his parents were pilots making him a fourth generation aviator.

Palmquist, the newest F-15 test pilot for the 339th Flight Test Squadron here, has been flying the fighter planes for 15 of his 17-year Air Force career. He arrived at Robins last September from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

With a call sign of "Shrek," his coworkers call him a beast when it comes to flying and say he always volunteers to fly at every opportunity.

Originally from Brookville, Pa., Palmquist had thought about being an airline pilot, but an ROTC scholarship changed his course to a spot in the Air Force.

Palmquist served 11 years of active duty and has been a reservist for six.

F-15 test pilots have a list of more than 100 items to check during the flights to report back to the maintenance people. The pilots test the limits of the aircraft to make sure when it's handed off to the end user, the machine is functioning as it should.

During his post-flight inspection, Palmquist double checks to make sure he's bringing the plane back in the same condition he got it.

"I have to trust the maintainers," Palmquist said. "I literally put my life in their hands,"

Normally an F-15 would go through two test flights. The two F-15s which Palmquist tested July 29 were bound for RAF Lakenheath in England.

Two fuel cells were added to the jet for the trek across the Atlantic Ocean so a third test flight was in order.

With Palmquist at the helm of one plane, he and Lt. Col. Chris "Torch" Coddington put the jets through their paces simulating a classic dog fight.

Palmquist used a Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System which projects information onto a visor. The system, which uses voice commands, allows the wearer to look over a shoulder and lock onto a target without having to look back at the front instrument panel.

The JHMCS adds an extra pound to the weight of the helmet which Palmquist said isn't much but at 7-8 G's, it can make for an aching neck.

"It's a workout," he said adding that the day after he is usually bruised and sore.

Palmquist has seen combat when he flew missions in Operation Southern Watch in 2002 just after 9/11 and prior to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was also stationed at Tindall Air Force Base where he taught pilots how to fly the F-15.