David Nils Larson is chief of the flight crew branch and a research test pilot in the Flight Operations Directorate at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. As flight crew branch chief, also known as chief pilot, Nils is responsible for supervision of the pilots, navigators, UAV operators and flight engineers who fly a variety of specialized aeronautical research, operational science and mission support aircraft at NASA Dryden.
Prior to joining NASA in 2007, Larson was on active duty with the U.S. Air Force. He has accumulated more than 5,500 hours of military and civilian flight experience in more than 75 fixed and rotary winged aircraft. At NASA Dryden, Nils is currently assigned to fly the F-15, F/A-18, T-34, X-48, DC-8 and the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone (DROID) aircraft.
During his time in the Air Force, Larson served as a first assignment instructor pilot in T-37 trainers; an operational U-2 pilot; a test pilot flying the F-15, T-38C and RU-38; a test pilot instructor on exchange at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School teaching systems and fixed-wing flight test in the F/A-18, T-2, U-6A and X-26; and as commander of the U-2 flight test detachment and depot In Palmdale, Calif. He finished his Air Force career as the deputy group commander for the 412th Operations Group at Edwards Air Force Base. He retired from active duty in 2007 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
At NASA, Larson previously served as research test pilot and deputy chief of the flight crew branch at Dryden. He has worked on numerous supersonic projects and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing radar tests in the F/A-18, the F-16 Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology program, various high speed propulsion projects in the F-15, Intelligent Flight Control projects on the F/A-18 and NF-15B, and numerous airborne science missions flown on the ER-2 and DC-8 airborne science aircraft.
A native of Bethany, W.Va., Larson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in astronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1986. He is an associate fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a graduate of U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Class 95A, "The Spin Doctors."