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A flight test engineer is an engineer who works with various kinds of aircraft, such as airplanes, jets, and helicopters. They may test new parts, such as radar equipment, on pre-existing models, or they may test new aircraft or even prototypes. Generally, she is responsible for developing the flight test phase for the aircraft. This may include preparing testing plans with other engineers, configuring the aircraft buildup, and working with others to install recorders and sensors. In addition, she may be responsible for analyzing and conducting the step-by-step plan or flight card for every test flight and writing a report based on her findings.
With the help of the test pilot, one of the main duties of the flight test engineer is to ensure the test flight occurs safely. She is also in charge of analyzing the data that is collected throughout a test flight. She may work with other engineers to prepare and write a flight test report as well. The report typically documents the details and results of a flight test phase. Based on the report, equipment may be removed, computers may be re-wired, or other changes may be made.
Sometimes the flight test engineer may actually fly inside the aircraft that is being tested. If she is not in the aircraft that is being tested, she will typically monitor the test phase from a control room. The equipment on the test aircraft often transmits data to the engineer as it is occurring. In addition, the engineer would have contact with the pilot as she is testing the aircraft.
Specific missions are occasionally assigned to a flight test engineer as well. In such a case, she must be able to create a mission timeline and plan the details of the mission so it meets all of the flight test objectives. In addition, she should generally be able to create and analyze test plans and flight test cards. Data analysis of flight simulations and test flights is often an essential part of the job as well.
Commonly, a flight test engineer is hired directly by an aircraft manufacturer. In addition, she may be employed by a government agency or a research organization. For example, if employed by a manufacturer, she may test a new aircraft to ensure it meets all the certification and safety requirements that are required by national law.
A flight test engineer is typically required to have a bachelor's degree in engineering degree. Many engineers have master’s degrees in engineering as well. Often, a specific degree, such as a degree in aerospace engineering, may be more beneficial. In addition, there are flight test courses that are offered as electives through the engineering departments in many colleges and universities. Once hired, many employers have programs in formal flight test training as well.