When retired Col. Art “Turbo” Tomassetti was a young boy, he dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. It was a lofty aspiration, and he had no idea then how important setting goals would be to realizing his dream.
As he got older, instead of just wishing and hoping, he made a plan. He did not grasp that the first step of his plan, joining the U.S. Marine Corps, was exactly what setting goals meant.
His military career boasted an impressive resume of awards, commendations, and medals spanning 28 years. His service included two tours of overseas duty and flying 3,200 hours in 40 different types of aircraft. During the Gulf War, he flew Harrier jets in 39 combat missions.
Reaching his childhood goal was not easy.
A tough climb
“It took confidence, cleverness, courage and commitment to accomplish my goals,” he said. “I also surrounded myself with other people who helped and encouraged me along the way.”
Once he proved to himself that he could go beyond just setting goals by actually reaching his goals — one mission at a time — he set a new one: becoming a test pilot.
With such an extensive resume, it seemed like a no-brainer that Tomassetti’s name would be at the top of the list for entry into test pilot school. But much to his dismay, his application was rejected. Tomassetti tried six times over four years to get into the military’s test pilot program. Finally on the seventh try, he was accepted. He told Growing Bolder that perseverance was something that always paid off and was a key component to his resiliency.
“In anything in life, you are going to run into obstacles,” he said. “But if you know that persevering and pushing forward will eventually get you where you want to be, that should be enough encouragement to make you take the next step, and then the step after that.”
It wasn’t until much later that Tomassetti realized that if he had been accepted into test pilot school on the first try, he would have missed the opportunity to help develop the X-35, which was a much safer plane.
“I found out you can make an airplane that helps take care of the people who fly it,” Tomassetti said. “I was highly motivated to push forward and do something that would make the future better for other people. I could get in there and make a difference.”
Another door opened
He was able to make a difference because one door closed but another opened. Setting goals wasn’t enough without confidence, cleverness, courage, and commitment.
Eventually, Tomassetti became an accomplished test pilot for the X-35 (now known as the F-35). His plane and flight suit reside in the Smithsonian Museum because he was the first person to complete Mission X, which was a short, 450-foot takeoff, a supersonic dash, and a vertical landing — all in the same flight.
Saving the world
After retiring from the military, Tomassetti set his sights on yet another big goal: saving the world. He knew how ridiculous that sounded to most people, but his plan was to simply make the world a better place. He now spends time speaking to others about his experiences, hoping to motivate them in their personal journeys.
“Sometimes a path may not be straight,” he says. “Sometimes you need to take a left or a right around something in order to reach your destination.”
That’s a piece of advice Tomassetti lived himself for years, especially when he was rejected over and over for test pilot school.
“If I can reach out and touch one person to make their life better today and inspire them to go out and make someone else’s day better, then I am making the world a better place one person at a time.”