Hawaii’s ‘Top Gun’ leads one of the military’s most prestigious training schools

In the military, pilots who graduate from the United State’s Naval Test Pilot School are the cream of the crop.
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 4:32 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2023 at 5:13 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the military, pilots who graduate from the United State’s Naval Test Pilot School are the cream of the crop.

Think along the lines of “Top Gun” ― times 10.

“Top Gun is an 11-week course and test pilot school is an 11-month course. You can compare the amount of things we teach in this course,” Army Lt. Col. Aaron Kia said.

The Hawaii-born Army officer Aaron Kia just took over command of the prestigious training school in Maryland that has produced scores of military test pilots and nearly 100 American and European astronauts.

“Ultimately, the folks who graduate from this course go out and help develop aviation technology for the Department of Defense,” Kia said. “That’s how we get fifth generation stealth fighters or brand-new attack helicopters.”

Kia grew up in Kaneohe and graduated from Kamehameha Schools. As an Army officer and helicopter pilot, he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He graduated from the same test pilot program that he now leads.

“He’s worked hard. He’s been wanting to do this since elementary school, getting into aeronautical engineering. I’m proud that he’s achieved his goals,” his mother, Sharolyn, said.

The Army’s partnership with the Navy at the school began in 1961. An Army officer takes over command just once every nine years. Kia is only the third to receive the honor.

“I’ve spent 18 years doing things the Army way, and I’ve spent the last 18 months trying to learn to do it the Navy way. That’s been probably my biggest challenge,” he said.

At a change-of-command ceremony in January, he officially took over the position where he oversees 300 personnel.

“The highlight of that whole ceremony was actually seeing him fly because we’d never seen him fly before. He’s actually an Apache helicopter pilot,” said his father, Abe.

Kia and his wife and children try to visit Hawaii once a year.

His tour as CO of the Naval Test Pilot School will run for eighteen months, and he’s very proud to represent the Aloha State in such a high-profile position.

“Hawaii will always be home and as long as I make my parents happy, I know I’m doing a good job,” he said.