Colloquium: June 7, 2011

Tigers, Spiders and Raptors: One Test Pilot’s Story

Alfred “Paul” Metz

TUESDAY: June 7, 2011 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium
(video) within the Langley firewall only


The 20-years from 1980-2000 encompass a revolution in aviation rivaling the introduction of the jet engine in the mid 1940s. Three airplanes represent this period where computers became dominant in aircraft design and stealth technology was introduced in a pure air-to-air fighter. The design, development and flight test programs of each aircraft will be discussed.

The F-20 Tigershark was a transition fighter originally targeted for our allies but became a chief rival to the USAF’s F-16. It combined very advanced avionics with a digital flight control system and relaxed static margins to give exceptional maneuverability.

The YF-23 Black Widow was one of two competing designs for the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), an attempt to combine stealth technology into a true air-to-air fighter for the first time. The YF-23 had a very high supersonic cruise speed and very low radar signature. It’s large V-tail gave it tremendous maneuver capability when combined with an unstable, computer-controlled airframe.

The F-22A Raptor was the ATF competition winner and selected to go into mass production. The design, development and flight testing of this fifth generation fighter spanned 13 years. Unlike the YF-22, this production Raptor had to incorporate and test entirely new subsystems, weapons and advanced sensors and displays.


Alfred "Paul" MetzPaul Metz is a retired military and civilian test pilot.

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. The world wide recession in 2008 eliminated venture capital for this project and it has been shelved awaiting better financial times.

He previously served on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and was named the Vice President for Integrated Test and Evaluation (Flight Test). He was responsible for a 1600-person, $750 million dollar flight test organization for the USAF, USN, USMC and 7 other countries. He served in this capacity until his retirement in February 2006.

He served as Lockheed Martin’s Chief Test Pilot for the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter from 1992-2001 and made the first flight on the F-22A Raptor on September 7, 1997. He and a staff of test pilots worked closely with the engineers on subsystem design, flying qualities, simulation, avionics, cockpit layout and man-machine interface. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, he was an Engineering Test Pilot and Chief Test Pilot for Northrop Aircraft for 12 years and served 12 years in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot and test pilot.

Metz joined Northrop Aircraft in 1980 as an Engineering Test Pilot. He conducted flight tests on the F-5E/F, the F-20 and the Antonov Colt, a Russian bi-plane. In October 1985, he was appointed Chief Test Pilot for Northrop Aircraft and was responsible for flight tests of the F-20 Tigershark, the RF-5E Tiger Eye Reconnaissance Aircraft, the F-86F Saber and other programs. He and his staff of test pilots worked closely with the engineers in the detailed design of the YF-23, the Northrop-McDonnell Douglas entrant in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) prototype program. He made the first flight of the YF-23A ATF in August 1990. He continued to test the F-22 at Edwards AFB, expanding the flight envelope to maximum speeds, Gs, altitudes and angles of attack. He subsequently spent 2 years as an engineering test pilot on the B-2 bomber program prior to leaving Northrop to become Lockheed Martin’s Chief Test Pilot for the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter.

Metz entered the USAF in 1968 and flew operational missions in the F-105G Wild Weasel in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. He flew 68 missions over North Vietnam and took part in the pivotal “12 Days of Christmas” raids in December 1972. His combat day and night missions against surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft gun sites in support of strike missions in North Viet Nam earned him two Distinguished Flying Crosses and six Air Medals. In 1976 he was a distinguished graduated from the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB and he remained at Edwards AFB conducting avionics, flying qualities, engine and flutter tests on the F-5E/F. In 1978 he became an instructor pilot at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland.

Metz was born in Springfield, Ohio, January 1946. He received a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the Ohio State University, Summa Cum Laude, in 1968. His graduate studies have been in Aeronautical engineering at Ohio State and California State University, Fresno and Aviation Safety at the Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, California.

He is a Fellow and past-President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. In 1992, he received the Kincheloe Award, the test pilot profession’s highest award, for his flight testing of the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype. In 2002 he was enshrined in the Aerospace Walk of Honor at Lancaster, California, the gateway to the USAF Flight Test Center. In 2008 he was inducted into the USAF Gathering of Eagles. He has written numerous articles on the flight test of modern fighter aircraft. He has over 7,000 hours and more than 37 years of experience flying 70 aircraft types including the F-86, F-105, F-4, F-5, F-15, F-20, YF-23 and F-22.