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TOPIC: FTE Certifications & Education

FTE Certifications & Education 4 months 3 weeks ago #993

  • msola22
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I am interested in becoming a FTE or Flight Test Pilot. My question is, what would be the best direction to go into as far as education and certifications are concerned? I already have a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering, so should I go for my masters degree next? Or should I attain a pilot's license, which I do want eventually? Or a third option is to take the FE exan for my EIT Certificate? I'm confused on the next step in my journey. Thank for the help.

FTE Certifications & Education 4 months 3 weeks ago #994

  • alawless
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Luck favors the prepared.
Many FTEs are not pilots, but having a license often brings more opportunity. Certainly some FTE jobs require a commercial/multi engine type license, but those jobs are not common.
The National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California has two-week introductory courses to flight testing. They include flying but are expensive. As a hiring manager, I would certainly favor someone who goes the extra mile to get this sort of training to show he/she is serious about the profession. The same applies to joining a professional organization such as SFTE. A Masters degree specifically in flight testing is certainly good but not many schools offer this. I think Embry Riddle does but it is expensive. Fortunately this is not required to get your career started.

The above apply directly to the flight test engineering profession. Other things such as flight engineer certificate is distantly related to what we do, but certainly doesn't hurt. The same can be said of a dispatcher license. What is most important to me is computer/coding skills. Any decent flight test department can mentor you on the finer points or even bring you up from zero.What many of them lack, however, is someone who can bring in the latest tools. If you can write code, apps or macros and you emphasize this in your resume and job interviews - that should go a long way. If a hiring manager doesn't appreciate someone who has already invested into the profession, then don't worry - you wouldn't want to work for him/her anyway.

As far a becoming a test pilot goes, you'll first need to build about 2000 hours flight experience in the class of airplane you want to test. As you get about halfway there you can start aiming for what it takes to become a test pilot...but that's a long way off for you.

FTE Certifications & Education 3 months 3 weeks ago #998

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If you have a bachelor's degree in engineering, I'd start applying for jobs at whatever area you want to relocate to.

Assuming you're a US citizen, the Antelope Valley in Southren California is a great place. I'd apply at Edwards AFB, JT4, Lockheed Martin, and apply for the graduate assistant program at NTPS.

If you want to be somewhere else like Pax or Eglin, look at who has the engineering support contracts in addition to applying for government jobs, and what primes or major subcontractors have positions in the area.

After you've been working for a couple of years, you should qualify for your employer to pay for a master's degree, possibly sooner depending on who you work for.

FTE Certifications & Education 3 months 4 days ago #1004

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My school of thought says: First decide if you want to be a Test Pilot or Flight Test Engineer. They are different, with different personalities and skill sets. Early in your career it is possible to change direction, but highly experienced FTEs generally don't switch to becoming Test Pilots and highly experienced Test Pilots don't switch to becoming FTEs.

The decision you make early in your career will determine your path later on. It is generally preferable for FTEs to have a background in design, maintenance or manufacturing before becoming FTEs, and likewise it is generally preferable for Test Pilots to have a background in operational flying in their chosen field, i.e. military, commercial or research.

So, your bachelor's degree in engineering is a good basis for a career as either an FTE or Test Pilot. A private pilot's license is also good background for an FTE and is a necessary step to becoming a test pilot, and will help you decide if you really love the thrill of flying or are more fascinated about what makes an aircraft/helicopter fly. This is were things split, and there are a couple of ways to becoming an FTE or Test Pilot:

If you prefer being a test pilot, you will need to first build a career as a pilot, obtain a commercial license with all the necessary ratings etc. which will take a number of years. I would then suggest looking for a job at a company that employs post maintenance and production acceptance pilots with a path to becoming a test pilot.

If you want to be an FTE, I would try to find a job as soon as possible in design, maintenance, manufacturing (for MEs), avionics or instrumentation (for EEs) at a company that manufactures aircraft and has a flight test department, and possibly do a master's degree in flight test engineering through NTPS or FIT (depending on where you live) while working towards obtaining a job in the flight test department.

Ideally, you could try to attend one of the established military or civilian test pilot schools (TPS). TPS is a generic term of a school that trains both FTEs and Test Pilots. There are a number of schools including: International TPS, Empire TPS, National TPS, US Navy TPS and US Air Force TPS. In order to attend one of these schools, you would typically have to join the military, government service such as NAVAIR, or a civilian organization that will sponsor you.

You can also look at opportunities such as the 3 year Graduate Assistant FTE program at the National Test Pilot School that includes a certificate as an FTE and a MS in Flight Test Engineering. Graduates from this program are highly successful and have continued in careers as FTEs and Test Pilots.
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