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Air Force appoints Dr. Fetterhoff to Senior Level career service

Dr. Thomas Fetterhoff

Dr. Thomas Fetterhoff

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Dr. Thomas Fetterhoff, whose career includes approximately two decades with AEDC, was recently promoted to serve as an Air Force senior leader.

“I am honored and humbled,” Fetterhoff said. “I have been lucky to work with incredibly talented people at Arnold Engineering Development Complex, within the Air Force, and across the Department of Defense and aerospace industry. I hope that I can live up to the incredible accomplishments of the people who have held this position in the past.”

On April 1, Fetterhoff began his new role of technical advisor for Aerodynamic, Propulsion and Ground Test Evaluation. He is stationed at the Air Force Test Center headquarters at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Fetterhoff is the senior technical advisor to the AFTC Commander and serves as the senior Air Force technical advisor and national/international authority regarding the Aerodynamic, Propulsion and Ground Test Evaluation of Air and Space Systems and the supporting infrastructure and modeling capability across AFTC test ranges and facilities.

“My job is to help create a vision for the Air Force Test Center and ensure that our people, test capabilities and test techniques can support the development of the world’s most capable aerospace weapon systems,” Fetterhoff said.

The AFTC workforce includes approximately 18,000 military, civilians and contractors, and its ranges and facilities are located across the country, including Edwards AFB, Arnold AFB, Eglin Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base.

Fetterhoff has more than 30 years of technical aerospace experience within the Air Force, Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has held a variety of positions across the AEDC enterprise.
He began his engineering career at the Navy’s Naval Aviation Depot in Alameda, California, in 1986. He held several roles with the Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division, in Trenton, New Jersey, from 1990 to 1994.

Fetterhoff worked in several capacities at AEDC at Arnold AFB. He was turbine engine test project manager from May 1994 to July 1997. After a stint with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Fetterhoff returned to Arnold AFB in 2004, serving as chief of the Strategic Planning Division until early 2006. He served as deputy director of the Space and Missile Test Squadron through September 2006, moving to chief/technical director of the Technology Development Branch. He served in that role through mid-2010.

In July 2010, Fetterhoff took on the role of technical director of the Test Operations Division at Arnold AFB. He served in that role until April 2016. From April 2016 through July 2017, Fetterhoff was the AEDC technical director at Arnold AFB.

From July 2017 to March 2018, Fetterhoff was the lead for hypersonics in the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science, Technology and Engineering at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“AEDC will play a pivotal role in the development of the next generation of weapon systems,” Fetterhoff said. “This is especially true when it comes to hypersonics. The new world-unique capabilities that are being fielded at AEDC will make these systems possible.”

A ceremony to honor Fetterhoff for his recent promotion was June 12. Fetterhoff said he chose to have the gathering at Arnold AFB due to his background with its people and facilities.

“I have a long history at AEDC and have close friendships and working relationships in the area,” he said. “In addition to the developments in new hypersonics test capabilities, I am very proud of the work that the AEDC team has done to make AEDC the world leader in high productivity testing and analysis of aerospace systems.”

Fetterhoff said he will continue to visit AEDC operating locations regularly in his role as a senior leader.

“My responsibilities in this position are mostly aligned with AEDC,” he said.

Fetterhoff received his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1986 and his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville in 1998. He received his Master of Strategic Studies, Air War College Senior Development Education, from Air University in 2017, and he received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville earlier this year.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., military deputy of the Office of Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the Pentagon, will preside over Fetterhoff’s promotion. Bunch said Fetterhoff will do exceptionally well in his new position.

“He has the perfect blend of technical acumen and leadership coupled with an unbridled passion,” Bunch said. “He sees and can articulate not only the importance of the technical work but also the criticality of developing our next generation of technical experts.

“His selection is a good thing for our Air Force and the nation.”

The consensus among Fetterhoff’s colleagues at Arnold AFB is that the AFTC has the ideal candidate for the job in Fetterhoff. Among those who lauded Fetterhoff’s work at AEDC is acting AEDC Chief of Plans and Programs and acting Vice Director Elmer Standridge.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with Dr. Fetterhoff over the years prior to his time at Air War College and tour at the Pentagon,” Standridge said. “I will say that I think AEDC needs to recapture the engineering curiosity, discipline and the sense of discovery that was associated with Arnold at its inception. We need to be able to dare more frequently when it comes to performance or technical risk in our work supporting development of the future Air Force.

“I think Dr. Fetterhoff is exactly the right person to help us move out along that path and make sure that we don’t backslide along that journey. He’s a great engineer and quite rightly prone to challenge our assumptions about what’s possible or necessary in the performance of our testing and in modernizing our test capabilities. I fully expect he will challenge us, and we will fail from time to time, but there’s no one I’d rather have helping keep AEDC on track for greater future contributions to our nation’s defense.”

Col. Timothy West, AEDC chief of the Test Operations Division, said Fetterhoff for more than two decades has demonstrated “exceptionally visionary leadership and advocacy” in restoring and preserving AEDC ground test capabilities for the DOD.

“His proven technical depth, passion and tenacity propelled him from a junior turbine test engineer to the undisputed technical authority on the AEDC government team,” West said. “I am delighted by his promotion to the Civilian Senior Level Career Service and his new assignment as the Air Force Test Center Technical Advisor for Aerodynamic, Propulsion and Ground Test and Evaluation.”

West said for his first two years at AEDC, Fetterhoff served as his technical director. In his capacity, Fetterhoff was responsible for helping West define the strategic direction for the division and ensuring technical rigor across ground testing at AEDC.

“Every day, he impressed me with his leadership, vision and tenacity,” West said. “Demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to technical excellence, Dr. Fetterhoff encouraged, cajoled and demanded that every member of the Division up their engineering diligence in order to deliver a more technically-rich product than AEDC had ever delivered, while achieving aggressive cost and schedule deadlines. The resulting improvements in analytical rigor and data quality elevated AEDC’s in a period of shrinking DOD budgets. Proving that success begets success, Dr. Fetterhoff’s demonstrated technical performance has brought many former AEDC customers back to middle Tennessee, which bodes well for the future of the complex.”

Along with being instrumental in analyzing, documenting and championing needed improvements to the nation’s ground test facilities in order to meet the need of hypersonic propulsion systems development, West said Fetterhoff deserves credit for a number of AEDC capability enhancements underway today, including the Mid-Pressure Arc Heater Upgrade, the Hypersonic Test and Evaluation Investment Program, and the reactivation of the 16-foot Supersonic wind tunnel.

“I can’t imagine a more qualified executive to serve as the ground test advocate at the AFTC level,” West said. “The AFTC staff now has an executive who truly understands the inner workings of AEDC.”

AEDC Commander Col. Scott Cain said Fetterhoff’s promotion shows the quality of people working at AEDC, adding the promotion is a great achievement for Fetterhoff and a “great win” for AEDC and the Air Force.

“I’m very excited to have Dr. Fetterhoff rejoining the Air Force Test Center and supporting AEDC,” Cain said. “His AEDC experience will be a great addition to the Center staff and will provide a valuable AEDC perspective to decisions made at the Center level.

“I recently had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Fetterhoff in some meetings in the Pentagon concerning hypersonics, which is a technology AEDC will be crucial in supporting and developing. Dr. Fetterhoff brought a depth of hypersonics experience to the table which was invaluable. I look forward to working with him on the many areas where AEDC is pushing the envelope.”