Thayer named Test Pilot of Year

Thayer named Test Pilot of YearBy AARON CRUTCHFIELD

NAWCWD Public Affairs

Maj. Nathaniel Thayer, the AV-8B Joint System Support Activity military deputy for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, was honored as the 2020 Marine Corps Aviation Administration John Glenn Squadron Test Pilot of the Year during a ceremony held Jan. 30.

The MCAA John Glenn Squadron, located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., awards Marines in three categories each year for significant contribution to, or professional achievement in, Marine aviation acquisition. This year marked the 15th annual awards.

“His steadfast commitment to excellence was crucial to enabling a rapid return to flight and flight test after two successive major earthquakes struck China Lake during the summer of 2019,” wrote Col. Steven R. Girard, John Glenn Squad-ron commanding officer, in Thayer’s award citation.

“Major Thayer’s superb technical expertise with AV-8B systems and weapons, combined with his expert leadership of AV-8B flight test in support of Marine Corps objectives, have ensured that the lethality, survivability and relevancy of the Harrier will persist to meet the needs of the warfighter.”

As the military deputy for the AV-8B Harrier jet program at China Lake, the only AV-8B flight test team in existence, Thayer directed a high-performance test team with tightly constrained funding and aircraft resources to ensure that testing was completed in a timely fashion and produced data relevant to the fleet operators, according to his award nomination package.

The nomination package also referred to last year’s Ridgecrest earthquakes – a 6.4-magnitude on July 4, 2019, and a 7.1-magnitude a day later, which were centered within the boundaries of NAWS and caused damage across the installation, including JSSA’s laboratories, hangars and work spaces.

The nomination noted that Thayer’s stewardship of the JSSA was key to the squadron rapidly returning to flight after the temblors.

“Working through that with our maintainers out there, it’s a new problem, and you’ve got to get it solved,” Thayer said.

“A lot of it was coordinating with our flight testers —What can they accomplish with what we have now? —and maintenance – What can they accomplish with what they have now? – and then what can I do personally to help make the two intersect?”

Thayer, a native of Southlake, Texas, hadn’t realized that he was in the running for the award.

“I didn’t even know I was submitted for it,” he said. “They kept that from me pretty well. I was very surprised.”

Pictured: Maj. Nathaniel Thayer, second from right, receives his award from Col. Steven Girard. Also pictured are Maj. Gen. Mark Wise and Harry Nahatis. — Photo by Mike Wilson

Story First Published: 2020-02-21