David P. Cooley

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David P. Cooley
Dave Cooley Cropped 2008.jpg
Dave Cooley explains how the F-22 Raptor simulator operates.
(USAF Photo)
Nickname(s) Cools
Born (1960-02-15)February 15, 1960
RAF Mildenhall, England, United Kingdom
Died March 25, 2009(2009-03-25) (aged 49)
Harper Dry Lake
35 miles NE of Edwards Air Force Base
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the US Air Force.svg United States Air Force
Years of service 1982 – 2003 (21 years)
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lt. Colonel
Commands held Vice Commandant, USAF TPS
F-117 chief test pilot

David Paul Cooley (February 15, 1960 – March 25, 2009) was a Lockheed test pilot and retired United States Air Force (USAF) officer, responsible for developmental flight testing of the F-117 Nighthawk. He was killed while flying a test mission in an F-22 Raptor jet fighter over the high desert of Southern California.


Early years[edit]

The son of a USAF airman, David Cooley was born February 15, 1960 at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England.[1] He grew up in Fairview Heights, Illinois and graduated from Belleville East High School.[2] Cooley was an exceptional soccer player and captain of his high school team.[3] His enjoyment of soccer continued throughout his life, and he was a dedicated bicyclist.[4] He attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and graduated in 1982 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.[4] George H.W. Bush, then Vice President of the United States, was the graduation speaker and presented Cooley with his diploma, a moment of special pride for the young officer.[3] While at the academy, he met his future wife, Sheyla, who was also a cadet.[1]


After completing flight training, Cooley was assigned to fly the F-111 Aardvark[5] and later became an instructor in that aircraft.[4] He began his career in flight test in 1989 conducting operational testing of new weapons and systems for the F-111.[1] Cooley was selected to attend the Empire Test Pilots' School in Wiltshire, England as the Air Force exchange officer.[1] He graduated in 1992 and returned to the United States assigned to the 445th Flight Test Squadron where he conducted tests on avionics and missile evaluation for the F-15 Eagle.[1] Cooley was also the chief pilot for the United States Coast Guard RU-38 Twin Condor aircraft flight test program.[1]

In 1998, he was selected as the operations officer for the 410th Flight Test Squadron and performed developmental flight testing of the F-117 Nighthawk.[6] From 2000 to 2003, he served as the vice commandant for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.[6] He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of all aspects of the school and also mentored students as a full-time flight instructor.[1] After retiring from the Air Force in 2003, he was hired by Lockheed Martin as the F-117 chief test pilot.[6] In September 2007, he transitioned to the F-22 Combined Test Force (CTF) at Edwards Air Force Base.[6] During this time, Cooley and his family lived in Lancaster, California.[3]


At approximately 10 a.m. on the morning of March 25, 2009, an F-22A piloted by Cooley crashed at Harper Dry Lake, near Lockhart, California about 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base.[7] Paramedics transported Cooley from the crash scene to Victor Valley Community Hospital in Victorville, California, where he was pronounced dead.[8] The wreckage of Cooley’s F-22A crash extended ten miles east from the site of the accident in Hoffman Road from the Fremont Peak Road, in San Bernardino County[9] and the debris field covered a wide area including three washes. A security team was deployed to cordon off the area due to aircraft materials that may pose health risks.[9]

The Air Force convened an investigation board to determine the cause of the accident.[8] On July 31, 2009, the Air Force released the board's accident report that identified human factors associated with high gravitational forces as the cause of the crash.[10] Due to the high g-forces required by the flight profile, Cooley was likely incapacitated by "almost g-induced loss of consciousness" (A-LOC).[11]

Reaction and legacy[edit]

MGen David Eichhorn bids farewell to Dave Cooley, Edwards AFB, April 2009. (USAF Photo)

Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Bob Stevens recognized Cooley's contributions in an all-employee memo the day after the crash.

A funeral service held on March 30, 2009 at Palmdale United Methodist church was attended by hundreds of colleagues, family members and friends.[1] Two days later, the USAF held a memorial in Hangar 1600 at Edwards Air Force Base.[6] Speakers included 411th Flight Test Squadron commander Lt. Col. Dan Daetz, Lockheed Martin representative James Brown, and Air Force Flight Test Center commander Major General David Eichhorn.[6]

In addition to his wife, Cooley is survived by their three sons, Paul, Mark and Aaron; his father and stepmother, William and Peggy Cooley; one brother, Bill Cooley; and two sisters, Susan Pfalzer and Cathy Baker.[1]

The Antelope Valley College Foundation sponsors a scholarship in Cooley's name to enable the recipient to pursue a four-year degree and subsequent career in engineering, math, science and/or aeronautical technology.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thurber, Jon (2009-03-30). "David P. Cooley dies at 49; test pilot worked for Air Force, Lockheed Martin before fatal crash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  2. ^ Nagy, Steve (2009-05-10). "Father of deceased pilot speaks". Belleville News-Democrat. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  3. ^ a b c "F-22 pilot with local ties crashes in California desert". KSDK NewsChannel 5. 2009-03-20. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  4. ^ a b c Rodela, Rosie (March 31, 2009). "Forever Young: In Memory of David Cooley" (PDF). Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Star. p. 29. Retrieved 2009-07-23. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Hoffman, Michael (2009-03-27). "Board examines cause of fatal Raptor crash". United States Air Force. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Reyes, Julius Delos, Senior Airman (2009-04-01). "Edwards bids goodbye to test pilot, wingman, friend". United States Air Force. Archived from the original on 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  7. ^ "F-22 Crashes Near Edwards Air Force Base, Killing Pilot". Associated Press. 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  8. ^ a b "F-22A crash claims life of Edwards pilot". United States Air Force. 2009-03-25. Archived from the original on 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  9. ^ a b "Edwards: Avoid F-22A crash recovery area". United States Air Force. 2009-03-29. Archived from the original on 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  10. ^ "Air Force officials release F-22 accident report". United States Air Force. 2009-07-31. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  11. ^ Eidsaune, MG David W. (2009-07-15). "United States Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board Report, F-22A, T/N 91-4008" (PDF). United States Air Force. p. 27. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  12. ^ "In Memoriam" (PDF). Today. Lockheed Martin Corporation. 15 (4): 1. April 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2014-05-09. 
  13. ^ "Foundation Scholarships: David P. Cooley Memorial Scholarship". Lancaster, California: Antelope Vally College. Archived from the original on 2015-01-03. Retrieved 2015-01-03. 

External links[edit]