I just graduated with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering, I was planning on joining the Air Force and trying to get into their flight test school as a developmental engineer... unfortunately it seems the Air Force wasn't taking on any engineers this time around, and I wasn't accepted. I had a very strong application, so I didn't worry about it too much, but if they're not hiring, there's not much I can do about it. So my question is: what's the best way to get into flight test engineering?
My recruiter mentioned that flying positions are in great demand in the Air Force, so I'm once more considering applying for pilot. I absolutely love flying, but I wouldn't want it for a career, so I would want to get back into engineering once my term was up. Would that be a good idea, if my ultimate goal is to be a flight test engineer? I have seen that many big aero companies see flight crew experience as a huge plus for their FTEs.
Other than that, I was also looking into entry level positions with the big aero companies - it's just difficult to sift through so many varied positions, especially since most of the job descriptions are pretty vague.
If anyone has some advice for me, I'd greatly appreciate it.
Getting an opportunity to be trained by the USAF or Navy is hugely valuable and should not be missed if you can get it. It is much easier to become an FTE after getting pilot training. Getting into Test Pilot School as an FTE is quite competitive. Some years they look only for young guys and other years they look for people with experience...hard to predict.
Both Edwards and Pax River are almost always looking to hire FTEs - have you tried them first? They generally have so many guys coming through that they have a fair amount of in-house training that does the job pretty well without going to TPS.
As far as getting in with industry goes, it never hurts to have any sort of FTE experience but civil industry values people with civil certification experience more than experience with weapons & defensive systems.
Anyone looking for just about any job in the government (including an AF FTE job) should become familiar with the USAJobs Website (www.usajobs.gov/). It is THE portal for employment. When a job announcement comes out it is posted to USAJobs for a week or so. You can set up a filter on your account so that you get notified by email when a position you may be interested in comes open.
One of the people I work with did exactly what you are thinking of: He flew tankers. Got out and decided to be a full time engineer. He says he couldn't see being a commercial airlines "bus driver."
Getting into the USAF TPS is very, very difficult partly becuase it is so competitive. Basically, if you don't have a master's degree you are not competitive. You do not have to be a test training school to be an FTE. Most of us got to where we are with OJT.
I recommend you dive in and get a feel for the water!