The Grand Master's Medal

Awarded to an individual under the age of 30 for outstanding achievement and endeavour in any field of aviation.

2023 awarded to: First Lieutenant Andrew H Merkley USAF

First Lieutenant Andrew Merkley is currently serving as the United States Air Force Materiel Command Lead Test Engineer for the 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron, a combined acquisition, ground, and flight test unit in Englewood, Colorado.  In this capacity he led a team of 40 personnel in test, executing seven separate special mission programmes, to include the development of a new United States Special Operations Command air-launched, unmanned aerial system on a classified platform, enabling successful all-weather targeting capabilities.

6661L Andrew Merkley USAF Grand Masters Medal 2023Lt Merkley played a crucial role in flight testing a new $42m engine, multiple propellers, and an upgraded lithium-ion aircraft battery for the U-28 airframe, directly expanding the capabilities of this vital Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) asset, while also addressing airframe viability and life extension.  Additionally, in recognition of his test experience and expertise, he was the lead test engineer for a $1.6B dollar hypersonic missile program test series overseen by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  He wrote the developmental test plan for weapon system evaluation, injecting relevance for three flight tests.

Lt Merkley directed ground and flight testing of a $585k ISR radar system upgrade on a low-density United States Southern Command counter-drug asset, thereby facilitating narcotics seizures valued at $2.4B, which was an impressive 9% increase from the previous calendar year.  Moreover, he was vital to next-generation airborne sensor development, integrated testing, and operations by enabling the continued development of a $100m sensor testbed platform.  He validated the pre-modification aircraft performance data for subsequent Federal Aviation Administration certification in a 31-sortie, 299-test-point, medium-risk test programme.

Utilising his skills from the Test Management Course, he managed the live-fire test and evaluation of an upgraded Stand-Off Precision Guided Munition.  His efforts facilitated the first-ever post-launch fusing update via the Situation Awareness Data Link, boosting weapon lethality.  Finally, Lt Merkley planned and executed the simultaneous flight testing of six unique alternate positioning, navigation, and timing systems in a week-long, large force test event.  He personally executed six sorties totalling 24 flight hours in a real-world global positioning system-denied environment, providing programme managers with actual system performance data. Simply put, Lt Merkley has exceeded all expectations and has made an exceptional contribution to the ‘Big Safari’ flight test mission.  He is highly deserving of recognition for an outstanding contribution to flight operations by the award of the Grand Master’s Medal.

Previous Winners:

1962/63  M P Glegg Esq

1963/64  D A Martin Esq

196465  T A Henderson Esq

1965/66  P G Hadgett Esq

196667  J W D Robertson Esq

196768  R J Barbour Esq

1968/69  A J E Tiley Esq

1969/70  C Redrupp Esq

1970/71  R G P Taylor Esq

1971/72  D Smethurst Esq

1972/73  G G Leask Esq

1973/74  J F Rothwell Esq

1974/75  G J Bressey Esq

1975/76  J F Nash Esq

1976/77  M J Thrower Esq


1992/93  M D W Bowker Esq

1993/94  R Ka Fuk Cheung Esq

1994/95  W S Gilmour Esq

1995/96  Jamal Jamal Mohammed Jamal

1996/97  Matthew J Clatworthy Esq

1997/98  Emma Joanne Phelps

1998/99  Captain W I E Anderson

1999/2000  Pilot Ofiicer J S Clayton

2000/01  Nicholas Chan

2001/02  Flt Lt Nicola Thomas

2002/03  Daniel Fonseca MEng (Hons) GradRAeS

2003/04  Philip Gareth Donovan

2004/05  Peter Charles Edward Nye

2006 - 2010  not awarded

2010/11  awarded twice:
       Isabelle de Montet-Guerin
       Capt Robert Shoenberg USAF

2012 - 2014  not awarded

2014/15  Flt Lt Christopher Gonzalez RAF 

2016  Flt Lt Colin Bostrom MSc RAF

2017  Captain Matthew A Shipp USAF

2018  Captain Alexander Horrell USAF

2019  Aaron Keith Pearce

2020  TSgt Zane Romick USAF

2021  Flt Lt Ryan Stowe RAF

2022  Travis Ludlow

2023  First Lieutenant Andrew H Merkley USAF