(TULLAHOMA, TN) Lt. Col. James Gresham is the new commander of the 716th Test Squadron, overseeing aerodynamic and aeropropulsion ground testing for the Arnold Engineering Development Complex. A large number of Rutherford County residents are employed at this nearby Air Base in neighboring Coffee County.
According to Gresham, he became interested in the Air Force and aircraft during his early teen years after completing a school assignment.
Responsible for multiple wind tunnel facilities ranging from hover to hypersonic velocities, the 716 TS team provides high-fidelity wind tunnel data and analysis on developmental air vehicles, space vehicles and weapon systems in support of Department of Defense and national security programs.
“I was inspired toward aeronautical engineering from a middle school project to design a balsa wood glider to safely fly and land an egg as a payload,” he said. “I chose the Air Force because we fly the most incredible combat aircraft, which at the time were the F-117 Nighthawk and SR-71 Blackbird.”
Gresham is a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and his first assignment was to the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California. As a flight test engineer, he led test planning and execution for new warfighter capabilities on U.S. Air Force and ally F-16 Fighting Falcons and guided high angle-of-attack test missions.
He then went on to earn his master’s degree at the Air Force Institute of Technology with a curriculum focused on aircraft stability and control and satellite design, while his thesis work developed a control algorithm for optically tracking satellites and aircraft with telescopes.
Prior to his new role at Arnold, Gresham was attending Virginia Tech on an Air Force Ph.D. fellowship to earn a doctorate in aerospace engineering.
“My curriculum there focused on system dynamics, control and estimation,” he said. “My research was based on modeling aerodynamics from experimental flight data, specifically while in a stall spin.”
Gresham said he feels prepared for taking on the challenges as the 716 TS commander, because his background has provided him with a strong technical foundation and relevant leadership experience for national asset acquisition.
Gresham has also been an assistant professor, executive officer, and deputy lab director for the Department of Aeronautics at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. Following this, he went to Test Pilot School where he led a team of peers conducting model validation and overseeing quality assessment on an innovative control law design. From TPS, he was a chief flight test engineer and assistant director of operations for the 452nd Flight Test Squadron and Global Vigilance Combined Test Force at Edwards AFB.
“This has included flight testing various cutting-edge combat aircraft and conducting wind tunnel research while on the faculty at the Air Force Academy,” he said. “I also had the opportunity to lead the team flight testing the nation’s newest unmanned aircraft, which gave me fantastic experience and a greater appreciation for the importance of engineering development towards our nation’s daily security.”
“I’m incredibly excited to get started serving the amazing team of the 716th Test Squadron,” he said. “The Flight Systems CTF [combined test force] here provides unique capabilities and decision quality data from the hover to hypersonic flight regimes. The data and analysis that we provide directly advance the National Defense Strategy and reduce the risk for subsequent flight and operational testing. We are at a critical point in engineering development for multiple nuclear modernization programs, hypersonic weapon systems and next-generation tactical systems. Our efforts provide national leaders with unrivaled options to deter aggression on the global stage.”
He added that he’s looking forward to learning from the current team and finding opportunities to innovate and improve resources to continue providing customers with the data analysis that the AEDC flight systems team is known for.