Flight test engineer
A Flight Test Engineer is an engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

 involved in the flight test
Flight test
Flight test is a branch of aeronautical engineering that develops and gathers data during flight of an aircraft and then analyzes the data to evaluate the flight characteristics of the aircraft and validate its design, including safety aspects...

ing of prototype
A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.The word prototype derives from the Greek πρωτότυπον , "primitive form", neutral of πρωτότυπος , "original, primitive", from πρῶτος , "first" and τύπος ,...

An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 or aircraft systems.


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
Test pilot
A test pilot is an aviator who flies new and modified aircraft in specific maneuvers, known as flight test techniques or FTTs, allowing the results to be measured and the design to be evaluated....

 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, along with the ground-based team, would be providing safety of flight monitoring and real-time data analysis
Data analysis
Analysis of data is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision making...


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
Electronics is the branch of science, engineering and technology that deals with electrical circuits involving active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes and integrated circuits, and associated passive interconnection technologies...

 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
Aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It is divided into two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering...

, Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering
Mechanical engineering is a discipline of engineering that applies the principles of physics and materials science for analysis, design, manufacturing, and maintenance of mechanical systems. It is the branch of engineering that involves the production and usage of heat and mechanical power for the...

, Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering
Electrical engineering is a field of engineering that generally deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. The field first became an identifiable occupation in the late nineteenth century after commercialization of the electric telegraph and electrical...

 or Cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

. 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
United States Naval Test Pilot School
The United States Naval Test Pilot School , located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Patuxent River, Maryland, provides instruction to experienced United States Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and foreign military experimental test pilots, flight test engineers, and flight test...

 are two of the very selective military programs. As of 2008, all graduates of the United States Air Force Test Pilot School receive an accredited Masters Degree in Flight Test Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Air University. There are also several commercially operated civilian schools for Test Pilots and Flight Test Engineers such as the National Test Pilot School
National Test Pilot School
The National Test Pilot School is a civilian test pilot school located at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California. The school attracts students primarily from commercial aircraft manufacturers and military air forces...

 located in Mojave, California
Mojave, California
Mojave is a census-designated place in Kern County, California, United States. Mojave is located east of Bakersfield, at an elevation of 2762 feet...

, USA. The University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma TN offers a MS degree in Flight Test Engineering via traditional and distance education and offers short courses in flight test subjects.

While not required, many FTEs are also civilian or military rated pilots
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

. 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
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

, Bombardier Aerospace
Bombardier Aerospace
Bombardier Aerospace is a division of Bombardier Inc. and is the third-largest airplane manufacturer in the world. It is headquartered in Dorval, Quebec, Canada.- History :...

, AgustaWestland
AgustaWestland is an Anglo-Italian helicopter design and manufacturing company. It was formed in July 2000 when Finmeccanica S.p.A. and GKN plc agreed to merge their respective helicopter subsidiaries to form AgustaWestland with Finmeccanica and GKN each holding a 50% share.AgustaWestland is now a...

, British Aerospace
British Aerospace
British Aerospace plc was a UK aircraft, munitions and defence-systems manufacturer. Its head office was in the Warwick House in the Farnborough Aerospace Centre in Farnborough, Hampshire...

, Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995. It is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington Metropolitan Area....

, Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company formed by the 1994 purchase of Grumman by Northrop. The company was the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world as of 2010, and the largest builder of naval vessels. Northrop Grumman employs over...

, Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky Aircraft
Sikorsky Aircraft
The Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is an American aircraft manufacturer based in Stratford, Connecticut. Its parent company is United Technologies Corporation.-History:...

, Airbus
Airbus SAS is an aircraft manufacturing subsidiary of EADS, a European aerospace company. Based in Blagnac, France, surburb of Toulouse, and with significant activity across Europe, the company produces around half of the world's jet airliners....

, Aérospatiale
Aérospatiale was a French aerospace manufacturer that built both civilian and military aircraft, rockets and satellites. It was originally known as Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale...

, or Embraer
Embraer S.A. is a Brazilian aerospace conglomerate that produces commercial, military, and executive aircraft and provides aeronautical services....

); or government research organizations, such as the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

) or QinetiQ
Qinetiq is a British global defence technology company, formed from the greater part of the former UK government agency, Defence Evaluation and Research Agency , when it was split up in June 2001...

; 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.

External links

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