David Culbertson

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department of Undergraduate Studies
College of Aviation

  • M.S. - Master of Science in Aviation Systems, The University of Tennessee
  • B.S. - Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering, United States Naval Academy

  • Fellow - The Society of Experimental Test Pilots
  • Fellow of the Society - Royal Aeronautical Society
  • Engineer Test Pilot Course - U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Naval Air Test Center

  • ASCI 509: Advanced Aerodynamics
  • ASCI 309: Aerodynamics

AS-132 Basic Aeronautics

AS-309 Aerodynamics

AS-310 Aerodynamics 

ASCI-309 Aerodynamics
ASCI-310 Aircraft Performance
ASCI-254 Aviation Legislation

ASCI-509 Advanced Aerodynamics

How to turn an ASTRA HAWK and a Basset Beagle into A Variable Stability Learjet: Transition of the Empire Test Pilot School’s Variable Stability System (VSS) program. Presented at the 2016 European Society of Experimental Test Pilots Symposium in Marseille, France

Culbertson, David et al, Contact! Risk Management Lessons Learned from the Navy AAR Program, 2014 Report to the Aerospace Profession. Fifty-eighth Society of Experimental Test Pilots Symposium Proceedings. September 2014.

Success in Rapid Prototyping:Testing the Strike Saab. Presented at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots East Coast Symposium in Patuxent River, MD 2010

Calspan Technical Memorandum (TM-FRG-GEN-0038-R00), Analysis of Maneuver Entry Tolerances for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Upset Recovery Program, August 2006.

Comparisons between Developmental and Depot (Production) Flight Test. Presented at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots 32nd Annual Symposium in San Diego, CA 2002

Culbertson, David, 'What Are You Going to Throw at Me Today', APPROACH, Vol. 47, No. 6/June 2002,30-32.

Flight Test Manual (FTM-109)-Systems Testing, U. S. Naval Test Pilot School, Chapter 10-'Night Vision Device Testing' 1999

Conceptual Design of a Future Night Vision System for Tactical Jet Aircraft, Masters Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1994.

Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT-IIE) of the Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ) as installed on the F/A-18C, Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, MD 1991.

Evaluation of Auto Pilot Steering Modes in the Kuwaitt F/A-18C, Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River MD, 1991.

Evaluation of the Carrier Airborne Inertial Navigation System (CAINS) as installed in the F/A-18C, Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, MD, 1991

Evaluation of the Voice Activated Intercom System in the F/A-18D, Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, MD, 1990.

Culbertson, David, 'The Failure of a Stick-and-Throttle-Interface-Connector', APPROACH, Vol. 36, No. 12/June 1991, 13.

Aviation Experience:

Over 40 years of flying mishap-free as a military fighter pilot, instructor pilot and test pilot. Career flight time over 8000 hours in over 70 different aircraft. Military and civilian instructor pilot with over 3500 hours of diverse flight instructional experience at U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, the Naval Training Command and General Aviation. Instructed in the F/A-18 fighter, TA-4J attack jet, T-2C jet trainer, U-6A (Beaver) taildragger, and X-26A sailplane. Civilian flight instructor in the Cessna 152/172,Pitts S-2B. Variable Stability System (VSS) Flight Instructor in the experimental VSS Learjets.

Flight Summary:

-Pilot in Command >6500 hrs

-Experimental Aircraft (VSS Learjet, Modified Saab 340, etc) > 4000 hrs

-USN Aircraft Carrier Landings 216

FAA Ratings:

-ATP AMEL / Commercial (ASEL & Glider) 

-FAA Instructor-CFI ASEL/AMEL/ Instrument/Glider

-FAA Type Rating- Learjet, SF340, G-1159 (G-III) SIC privileges.

-Equivalent Military Type Ratings- F/A-18, A-4. A-7, T-2C, U-21, T-38

Professional Career:

MIT- Lincoln Laboratory

Director of the Flight Test Facility. Responsible for providing leadership and management direction to the Federally Funded Flight Test Facility's operations, maintenance, engineering, and administrative personnel to enable safe, effective flight and ground operations of the seven uniquely modified experimental test bed aircraft that support diverse research and development programs. Final signature authority for all flight test facility Safety Review Boards, flight test plans, flight operations and aircraft modifications. FAA Part 145 Repair Station Accountable Manager.  Member of MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s safety and risk management leadership committees. Active test pilot. Support over ten annual advanced engineering and technology development programs with fifteen flight test aircrew, thirteen artisan mechanics, and six administrative staff, flying over 700 flight hours a year with an annual budget of over $15 million. 

Calspan Corporation:

Senior Experimental Test Pilot and Chief Test Pilot. Responsible for the training, standardization and safety of ten engineering test pilots conducting flight test training and high risk flight research in the company’s seven experimental aircraft and high performance government aircraft around the globe.  Experimental test pilot and ground/flight instructor for graduate stability & control, advanced flight control design, pilot induced oscillations (PIO) phenomenon, Upset Pilot Recovery Training (UPRT) and handling qualities investigations for the international aerospace community in experimental VSS Learjets and highly modified experimental Saab 340 equipped with F-16 Radar and MX-15 EO/IR turret.


Lead test pilot and consultant to Canadian Forces for Developmental Test and Evaluation of Canadian CF-18 Air Combat Emulator (ACE). 

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University:

(2017-Present) Course Monitor and Course Developer for ASCI-509

(2005-Present) On-line Adjunct Professor (ASCI-309, ASCI-310 and ASCI-254)

(2005-2015) Course Monitor and Course Developer for ASCI 309 and ASCI-310.

(2003-2005) Assistant Professor of Aeronautical Science at the Daytona Beach campus, teaching Aeronautics, Aerodynamics and Aircraft Performance and while also serving as the Director of Flight Test at Embry-Riddle's Aerospace Engineering Research Center. Principal Curriculum Development team member for new minor program entitled “Flight Test and Simulation.” 

US Navy:

Served for over 20 Years in the Navy after graduating with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982. Flew T-34C, T-2C and TA-4J as a student pilot. Earned Naval Aviator 'Wings of Gold' in 1984 in Kingsville, TX. Served as an instructor pilot in Beevile, TX flying the T-2C. Selected for F/A-18's and joined one of the Navy's first east coast Hornet squadrons (Cecil Field , FL) in 1987. After completing a successful fleet tour which included extended carrier deployments in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean, was selected for the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) in Patuxent River, MD. After graduating from USNTPS in 1990, served two years as a test pilot and project officer flying the F/A-18, A-4, and A-7 aircraft. Selected for the Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer (AEDO) program in 1992, returned to the USNTPS as a flight test instructor. In 1993, reported to Naval Air Systems Command in Arlington, VA as the Avionics Systems Project Officer and Mission Systems Integrated Team Leader for the F/A-18 program. Reported back to USNTPS and served as the Senior Systems Instructor from 1996 to 1998 and the Chief Flight Instructor from 1998 to 2000. Served final tour in the Navy from 2000 to 2002 in San Diego, CA as the Director of Quality (VP equivalent) and Chief Pilot for the Naval Air Depot North Island flying F/A-18's coming out of major overhaul and repair. Successfully led the command’s development of the winning application for the 2001 U.S. Senate Productivity Award,  Silver (Best-in-Class), under the California Council for Excellence in the Large Manufacturing category. 

Significant Flight Test & Research Projects:


Navy Autonomous Aerial Refueling- Lead Test Pilot for the technology development, research and demonstration of autonomous Probe and Drogue aerial refueling as a surrogate for the highly visible X-47B Program. Flew first ever Probe and Drogue Manual Engagement of Business jet equipped with a Probe into a Navy Air Refueling Drogue.

Lead Airworthiness Test Pilot for highly modified experimental Saab 340 test program.

Calspan safety test pilot for joint ERAU-Calspan research project to evaluate transfer of low-cost simulator based aircraft upset recovery training.


Conducted extensive performance and handling qualities evaluation of the new fighter simulator as part of the Advanced Distributed Combat Training System. 

Naval Air Depot-North Island

 F/A-18 Un-commanded Yaw and Roll Engineering Investigation. Discovered, developed and published new flight check procedures to accurately assess aging F/A-18 flight control hydraulic drive units, greatly reducing future un-commanded departures from controlled flight due to asymmetrical leading edge flaps.

Naval Air Test Center-Patuxent River 

Successfully led the developmental test program (DT-II) and technical evaluation of the Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ) installed on the F/A-18C, including; test planning, site and asset coordination, aircrew operations, budget management, flight test, data analysis, and reporting.

Principal Project Test Pilot for envelope expansion of the F/A-18C Canted Vertical Ejector Rack (CVER), which included several precise end-point supersonic full complement weapons releases. 

Principal Project Test Pilot for technical evaluation of F/A-18C Navigation Forward Looking Infrared system (NAVFLIR) which included several night low level test flights in mountainous terrain with Night Vision Goggles (NVGs).

Principal Project Test Pilot for F/A-18C Enhanced Performance Engine (EPE) Steam Catapult Ingestion/ Carrier Suitability Evaluation.

Principal Project Test Pilot for F/A-18D Reconnaissance (RECCE) Nose modification Airspeed Calibration and Flying Qualities Evaluation which included high Angle of Attack and supersonic test points.

Fellow, Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)

Fellow, Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP)

Member, Aero Club of New England (ACONE)

​Member, Airplane Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA)