Major Quinn, a Salt Lake City (Utah) native, graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1985. The next year he attended and graduated from the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) at Sheppard AFB in Texas after which he converted to the F-16A at Macdill AFB, FL and to the F-16C at Luke AFB, AZ.
His first operational assignment was the 14th Fighter Squadron, Misawa (Japan) from 1987 till 1991. After a one year stay with the 35 FS at Kunsan (Republic of Korea), he returned to Misawa in 1992. He graduated from the USAF Weapons School in December of 1993, returning to Misawa as the Weapons Officer for the 14th FS.
From 1995 till 1997, he was Thunderbird no. 6 (Opposing Solo) and Thunderbird no. 5 (Lead Solo) with the USAF Thunderbirds at Nellis AFB. In 1997, he joined the resident 422nd TES (Test and Evaluation Squadron), where he currently is the Director of Test Support.
F-16.net: What exactly is the mission of the 422nd TES?
Maj. Quinn: The role of the 422 TES is to test new software, weapons, tactics and systems for each of the fighter aircraft we have in the USAF. We have both block 42 and block 52 F-16s, F-15C, F-15E and A-10 aircraft as well as an HH-60 helicopter.
F-16.net: Do you have a preference for a specific block or version of the F-16?
Maj. Quinn: I started with the F-16A block 15 in initial training, and have flown every version of the F-16C from block 25 to Block 50/52. I prefer the Block 40/42 for any low night work. It is also a great aircraft for dropping laser guided weapons. That kind of accuracy was a real leap forward for the F-16. The Block 50/52 is my preference for any kind of Air-to-Air work. The radar and other avionics are fantastic.
F-16.net: Is the 422nd's role unique in the USAF?
Maj. Quinn: There are currently two Test and Evaluation squadrons in the USAF: the 422nd TES at Nellis and the 85th TES at Eglin AFB in Florida. We work for the same wing, but the 85th concentrates mostly on Block 50/52 systems and tactics, and we concentrate mostly on Block 40/42 systems and tactics. There is also a National Guard and Reserve test center in Tucson Arizona. Their focus is Block 30/32 systems and tactics. We all try to share information as often as we can, although it is a challenge since we are so geographically separated.
F-16.net: What kind of experience/skills do pilots need in order to serve with a TES or the 422nd in particular? Is there a special training program?
Maj. Quinn: The 422 prefers to hire pilots who are experienced instructors in their particular aircraft. Many of the systems or tactics that we test need to be evaluated not only for their tactical utility, but for their applicability to operational fighter squadrons. We need to make sure that what we are giving the operational squadrons is something that each fighter pilot can use, regardless of their experience level. There is a test upgrade program for each new pilot in the 422nd, but the real training just comes with experience in the kind of work we do. For example, some of our work is done with the folks at Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems in developing the next generation of F-16 software upgrades. We try to get each new 422nd F-16 pilot an opportunity to visit Lockheed-Martin to find out what kind of information they are looking for. That way, we know the engineers are building exactly what we need.
F-16.net: Are you involved in specific projects for the moment?
Maj. Quinn: One of the tests that I am currently involved in is called Airborne Strike Control. We are looking at the utility of using the F-16 Block 40/42 as a Forward Air Control platform. It's great doing that here in the 422nd since we have very experienced A-10 pilots we can talk to and learn from since they have been doing that mission for many years. That test has been going on for a few months now, and we should finish in the spring of 1999. A little over half the sorties have been at night, using night vision goggles and using the LANTIRN system, specifically the targeting pod to identify targets.
F-16.net: What mission profiles do you enjoy most?
Maj. Quinn: The mission profiles I prefer most are multi-ship, mixed force sorties. I find it very challenging trying to keep track of everything that is happening in that kind of sortie while fighting my way both in and out. Nellis is a great place to learn from those sorties, since we have access to the Red Flag Mission Debriefing System that replays the position of our aircraft on a large screen or television. We can go back and look at what we did right and wrong, and try to improve next time.
F-16.net: What was your most memorable flight?
Maj. Quinn: My most memorable flight in the Viper was flying over the opening ceremony at the Atlanta Olympics with the six-ship formation while I was with the Thunderbirds. But even after 13 years, every sortie is exciting and challenging, and I hope to keep doing this job for a long time to come.
F-16.net: Any favorite deployments or exercises?
Maj. Quinn: I most enjoyed the numerous times I deployed down to the Philippines as a young pilot. During my years in Japan and Korea, we participated in the 'Cope Thunder' exercises over a dozen times and flew out of Clark Air Base in the Philippines. That is where I initially learned how to employ this airplane in a war-time scenario, and I always remember how much fun it was deploying with all the Samurais and how much I learned during those deployments.
F-16.net: What's the story behind your callsign?
Maj. Quinn: The story behind my call-sign revolves around the fact that I have played hockey for most of my life, and when I first showed up in Japan, I joined a Japanese hockey team. So when the time came for my naming committee with the 14th Squadron, they decided to name me Puck.
F-16.net: Which assignment do you have particular fond memories of?
Maj. Quinn: I have two favorite assignments, and enjoyed them each for different reasons.
The first was my return to Japan in 1994. I had just completed Weapon School and was fortunate enough to return to the squadron where I was a brand new F-16 pilot, the 14th Samurais to be the Weapons Officer. Being a Weapons Officer is a very rewarding job, and I will always look back on that experience as the best one yet.
The other job I enjoyed very much was being a member of the Thunderbird Team. The people I worked with were absolutely wonderful, and it was always a great pleasure traveling with them and representing all the great people in the USAF. One thing I learned after traveling all over the US and throughout other countries, is that so many people in America, and other countries as well, look up to the military and the people who serve in it. We get very busy doing our day to day jobs, so in many cases our military members don't get to hear those comments, even though they are very real and very true.
F-16.net: Thanks for the interview!
Maj. Quinn: Thanks for allowing me to share some experiences with you and the people who enjoy your web site!
- Major Quinn was interviewed online by Stefaan Vanhastel -