Flight test engineer

A Flight Test Engineer (FTE) is an engineer involved in the flight testing of prototype aircraft. The Flight Test Engineer generally has overall responsibility for the planning of a specific flight test phase, which includes preparing the test plans in conjunction with other systems engineers, overseeing the buildup of the aircraft to the proper configuration, working with the Flight Test Instrumentation Engineer to ensure the sensors and recording systems are installed for required data parameters, and preparing the maneuver-by-maneuver plan for each test flight (often called a ‘pilot card’ or 'flight card’). The FTE and the experimental Test Pilot are jointly responsible for the safety of the test flying. The FTE is also responsible for the overall analysis of the data acquired during a test flight. Finally, the Flight Test Engineer will coordinate with specific systems engineers to write the final Flight Test Report, documenting the results of a specific flight test phase.

The FTE may or may not fly in the test aircraft, depending on the aircraft type or mission objectives. When not in the test aircraft, the FTE normally monitors the test in real-time via data transmitted to a special flight test data center. In this case, the FTE would be in radio contact with the test pilot and he/she, along with the ground-based team, would be providing safety of flight monitoring and real-time data analysis.

Multiple test aircraft may be required on major aircraft development flight test programs. The test activities of all test aircraft must be coordinated by a senior Flight Test Engineer. On complex test programs, it is also common for each test aircraft to have several FTEs assigned, each with a specific area of responsibility.

Often a Flight Test Engineer will be required to come up with techniques for monitoring a specific variable or system, which requires a bespoke piece of equipment to be fabricated. Due to the specialized nature of the techniques in manufacturing and electronics involved, a Flight Test Engineer is usually high skilled and will have undergone in-depth training.

Education for Flight Test Engineers

The Flight Test Engineer may have a degree in Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Electrical Engineering. A bachelor’s degree is generally required, although a master’s degree is recommended. Many university Aerospace Engineering Departments offer elective Flight Test courses for those interested in this field of engineering.

The military services have formal training programs for experimental Flight Test Pilots and Flight Test Engineers. These training programs may be attended by selected military or government-employed civilian pilots and engineers. Most military Test Pilot Schools combine pilot and engineers in one class, where they work together just as they would in the real world. The United States Air Force Test Pilot School and the United States Naval Test Pilot School are two of the very selective military programs. There are also several commercially operated civilian Test Pilot/Flight Test Engineers Schools. The most prominent and accredited programs is the National Test Pilot School located in Mojave, California.

While not required, many FTEs are also FAA or military rated pilots. Though the FTE doesn’t actively control the aircraft during tests, this flight background is valuable in understanding flight operations.

Employment of Flight Test Engineers

Flight Test Engineers may be employed by large aviation manufacturers (such as Boeing, AgustaWestland, British Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft, Airbus, or Aerospatiale); or government research organizations, such as the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) or QinetiQ; or government certification agencies like the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FAA Flight Test Engineers and Test Pilots will test aircraft presented by the manufacturers to ensure they meet all certification requirements.

References

* [http://spaceagecontrol.com/AD-IntroductionToFlightTestEngineering.pdf Introduction to Flight Test Engineering]

External links

* [http://www.sfte.org/ Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE)]
* [http://www.flighttestsafety.org/ Flight Test Safety Committee]
* [http://www.northropgrumman.com Northrop Grumman]
* [http://assets.cambridge.org/052180/9924/sample/0521809924ws.pdf "Airplane Stability and Control"]
* [http://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/airworthiness_certification/ FAA Aircraft Certification Branch]
* [http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)]
* [http://www.ntps.com/ National Test Pilot School]
* [http://www.usntps.navy.mil/ US Navy Test Pilot School]
* [http://www.edwards.af.mil/tps/ US Air Force Test Pilot School]
* [http://www.bellhelicopter.textron.com/ Bell Helicopter-Textron]

ee also

* Aerospace engineering
* Flight test instrumentation
* Flight test


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