The Eric 'Winkle' Brown Memorial Award

Awarded for an exceptional achievement or contribution, by an individual or team, to the operational assessment or development of a manned aircraft(s) or airborne system(s).

2022 Awarded to:  James Kromberg

KROMBERG JamesMr. James F “Flipper” Kromberg currently serves as a project test pilot, flight test, and engineering consultant at the 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron, a combined United States Air Force acquisition, ground, and flight test unit in Englewood, Colorado.  James is a consummate test professional with over 35 years of experience as a United States Marine Corps, United States Air Force, and contractor instructor test pilot, weapons and operations officer, programme manager, and Federal Aviation Administration Designated Engineering Representative.  In 2021, he led a $100M testbed development effort aimed at providing a testing solution for next-generation airborne sensor development and operations.  This effort included personally executing 31 medium-risk test sorties, encompassing 181 test points to characterise the flight performance of two repurposed 1960s-era C-9B aircraft, in both pre- and post-modification configurations.  Additionally, in recognition of his test experience and expertise, James was selected to validate the integration of a new seven-blade propeller on the U-28A aircraft; the first-of-its-kind to be installed on a PC-12 commercial derivative aircraft.  This testing was completed in only two weeks and reduced the aircraft’s acoustic footprint, which is crucial to tactical Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations.

Aside from flight sciences testing, James played a key role in testing and fielding advanced ISR and battle management capabilities.  This includes pioneering the off-board control of small Unmanned Aerial Systems by the U-28A, progressing from initial concept to an airborne demonstration in less than three months.  This capability will facilitate tactical ISR in all weather conditions, allowing U-28A crews to “see” below the weather.  Additionally, James coordinated the testing of an airborne, artificial intelligence algorithmic ISR analysis capability, which will facilitate Department of Defense (DoD) level data exploitation requirements; a capability aligned with the DoD’s vision of a fully integrated and network-centric approach to battle management.  He also introduced digital engineering to the C-9B testbed airframe, using intelligent iterative aerodynamic modelling in the design and engineering processes, cutting the project’s optimisation timeline by 75 percent.

Finally, James’ pilot expertise was instrumental in identifying C-146A Wolfhound take-off and landing data safety and capability errors in the aircraft’s flight manual.  This discovery not only led to the aircraft manufacturer correcting the aircraft’s performance model, but it also boosted the platform’s global airfield options by 30 percent and increased safety for all C-146A operators.  James has exceeded all expectations and has made exceptional contributions to the unit’s flight test mission.  For his outstanding achievement and contribution to the operational assessment and development of these aircraft and systems, James Kromberg is awarded the Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown Memorial Trophy.

Previous Winners:

2018   Roger "Dodge" Bailey

2019   Test Pilots of the F-35 Integrated Test Force, Nathan J Gray, Lt Cdr Peter Wilson, Sqn Ldr Andrew Edgell, Maj Michael Lippert USMC

2020   Ben Lewis

2021   Captain Richard Dane OBE

2022  James Kromberg