The Valedictory Function of the 17th Production Test Pilots Course was held at the prestigious Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) located near HAL airport in Bengaluru. Air Marshal SK Ghotia, Senior Air Staff Officer of Training Command, Indian Air Force, was the Chief Guest. He awarded graduation certificates to the fresh batch of Production Test Pilots. This batch consists of one pilot each from the Indian Army, Navy and Coast Guard and two pilots from the Indian Air Force. These officers earned this distinction after undergoing a gruelling 10 weeks of intensive training at the Air Force Test Pilots School. During the ceremony, the trophy for the best all-round student was awarded to Commandant (JG) Atul Kumar Agarwal of Indian Coast Guard.
Air Force Test Pilots School (AFTPS), established under ASTE in 1973, is a premier institution of the country which trains experimental and production flight test crew in both fixed as well as rotary wing aircraft. AFTPS has also trained test crew for flight testing of remotely piloted aircraft. A total of 39 Flight Test Courses, 17 Production Test Pilots Courses and 2 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Test Courses have been completed till date.
The rapid increase in growth of the aerospace industry within the country has led to an increased demand for trained and skilled Test Pilots to meet the production requirements. Production Test Pilots form the vital link between the manufacturer, the overhaul agency and the operating unit. With new generation aircraft being inducted into the Indian Armed Forces and existing aircraft undergoing upgrades with new technologies, the role of a Production Test Pilot cannot be over-emphasized. He is involved in the all important process of testing and clearing the aircraft after production and overhaul, prior to its release to the operator.