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TOPIC: How to be a flight test engineer?

How to be a flight test engineer? 1 week 5 days ago #1009

  • joe-fbs
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Hello Jerin,
I may, at the grand old age of 53, be old fashioned but may I first suggest that you pay attention to spelling and grammar when posting in a professional context. Both of your posts on this thread contain such errors. That immediately creates a bad impression especially as the forum appears automatically to correct some errors and highlight others.

I came late and almost by accident to flight test engineering. Although I have an aeronautical degree and have spent almost 2/3 of my working life in aviation, I did not begin to be involved in flight test until I was 48! I will tell the tale as it is unconventional and may give you some ideas. Then again, it may be so odd as to be not applicable to anyone else. I started on the path to FTE when I took a job as an airworthiness specialist with a small start-up. It soon transpired that the regulator required us to have a Compliance Verification Engineer (roughly equivalent to a DER but not quite) to cover flight test. As the only available person with a PPL and an aeronautical degree, I was the obvious candidate. The company had neither the time nor the money to send me to ETPS or an equivalent full course nor would such a course have been particularly relevant to the aeroplane in question. After some searching for an existing short course, we agreed with our regulator an alternative route which was that I would use an expert in the relevant type of flight test and have them design and deliver a one-to-one bespoke course. This was duly done and I was the ground based FTE (the aeroplane was not appropriate for a flying FTE) for the first flight and subsequent early exploratory flights. I then moved to my next job, also a small start-up but this time building the largest flying machine on the planet. Again I was employed as a certification specialist. When we started ground testing the aircraft I thought "I want some of this" so I said to the test team "For my main job I must witness these tests so why not give me a job to do?". They agreed and I became the test team scribe. That may sound like a lowly role but it required understanding of engineering, testing and later flying plus it gave me a very fast and comprehensive education in the aircraft and in testing. Later, we decided that the Test Director needed a right-hand person. Armed with my experience and enthusiasm I became that person, a full ground FTE role. Later still, we needed an additional Lead FTE to fly on the aircraft alongside the pilot. With my new experience plus my enthusiasm and PPL (including instrument and night ratings), I was chosen and thus joined a very exclusive club. The company is now between aircraft and, alongside my main job in certification, I am still heavily involved in FTE tasks, including a lot of time in the simulator.

So there it is, an unusual path into FTE. I hope that you can draw some useful lessons from it. They are pretty much the same ones that Guy has already made explicit.
Last edit: by joe-fbs.
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