Thursday, January 19, 2012
After graduation from the Italian Air Force Academy, Cheli underwent pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, in 1982-1983. Following fighter lead-in training at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico and initial training in the F-104G in Italy, he joined the 28th Squadron, 3rd Recce Wing in 1984. In 1987, he attended the Italian Air Force War College and in 1988 he graduated from the Empire Test Pilot's School, Boscombe Down, United Kingdom. While assigned to the Italian Air Force Flight Test Center in Pratica di Mare, Rome, he served as a Tornado and B-707 Tanker project pilot on a variety of test programs and as display pilot. His flight experience includes more than 3000 flying hours in over 50 different types of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. In June 1992, he was selected by the European Space Agency as a member of the second group of European astronauts.
Cheli reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992 and completed one year of training in August 1993. He is qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flight crews. His technical assignments to date include: flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL); remote manipulator system/robotics; crew equipment. He flew on STS-75 in 1996 and has logged over 377 hours in space.