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tu144d
Topic Author
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2002 11:39 pm

Becoming A Test Pilot

Sun May 07, 2006 8:48 am

I will be finishing my MS in Aeronautics/Astronautics this May from Stanford. I also have a BS in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from the Univ. of Illinois. I have really been quite lost and confused as to what i wanted I do. I simply studied Aeronautics because i loved airplanes and everything about them. However, the present career opportunities don't interest me that much. Mathematically they are challenging but i really don't want a "desk job" just analyzing stability derivatives and poles and transfer functions. BTW, I am specializing in Aircraft Dynamics and Control at Stanford. To make a long story short (too late), i am taking a job as an engineer simply to pay off my massive student loans and appease my parents. However, as soon as i start making some money i want to earn my pilot's license and i think now i am interested in becoming a test pilot. It seems like the perect job for me given that i want to fly and apply my engineering background. From what i hear many test pilots have "hard science" degrees. What is the best way for me to pursue this? Do I have to join the military or can i try as a civilian? Also, even if my lack of military background hurts me, will my Stability and Control background be a major asset? Finally, about how long will it take to complete the training and become a fully certified test pilot? Thanks a lot for your replies.

[Edited 2006-05-07 02:10:14]
 
Ralgha
Posts: 1590
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 1999 6:20 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Sun May 07, 2006 10:00 am

Typically test pilots have massive amounts of flight time, so that will probably be your biggest hurdle. Specifics will depend on the company who is hiring the test pilot, but military experience will almost always help.
 
AirWillie6475
Posts: 2372
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 1:45 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Sun May 07, 2006 3:41 pm

What kind of test pilot? Military or Civilian or light aircraft test pilot? You don't want to be a military test pilot, those guys were probably dropped too many times as children to want to follow that career. You've got to be a cowboy to be a military test pilot, those guys are crazy and probably have ice in their vains. Also you don't fly the plane with what you have learned on paper, you need the experience first doesn't matter that you studied in college. Lastly, don't become a pilot, sounds like you're a complete person now that you have went to Stanford, find a job with good pay and job security. Sure, you can earn you earn your private certificate just go to san mateo or reid hillivew but don't make it a career. Pilots don't make shit as far as money those brains behind the desks(you) that design the aircraft make the big bucks.

[Edited 2006-05-07 08:43:11]

[Edited 2006-05-07 08:43:26]
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 12:01 am

I don't know about test pilots specifically, but as with all sought after jobs, you need to work harder than the rest of the crowd, and keep working harder for years and years.

My wife's uncle always says: "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity". If you have prepared with years of hard work, you will be able to take the opportunity once it comes your way.
 
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zeke
Posts: 17376
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 1:42 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 1:28 am

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 1):
Typically test pilots have massive amounts of flight time, so that will probably be your biggest hurdle. Specifics will depend on the company who is hiring the test pilot, but military experience will almost always help.

I disagree, my experience is that test pilots don't do a lot of flying, 200 hours in a year would be normal.

The A380 program has over 30 test pilots, if you were to average it each test pilot would log just over 140 hrs for the entire certification program.

Looking at the national test pilot school instructors, the average flight time they have per year is 320 hrs (averages between 85 and 550 hrs per year). The highest time pilot has logged 18000 hrs in 45 years, lowest 3000 hrs in 15 years.
 
EMBQA
Posts: 7861
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 3:52 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 1:55 am

Quoting Zeke (Reply 4):
disagree, my experience is that test pilots don't do a lot of flying, 200 hours in a year would be normal.

The A380 program has over 30 test pilots, if you were to average it each test pilot would log just over 140 hrs for the entire certification program.

He's talking about in their Log Books when they apply. Your not going to see a 'new guy' flying as a test pilot.. Most will have 10,000hrs +
 
SlamClick
Posts: 9576
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:09 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 2:46 am

Assuming we are talking about military test pilots here . . .

Quoting Ralgha (Reply 1):
Typically test pilots have massive amounts of flight time

Just not so.

Quoting EMBQA (Reply 5):
He's talking about in their Log Books when they apply.

Not 'massive' by any stretch. A couple of tours of duty somewhere as fighter pilot. Good record in the squadrons. Maybe having been maintenance officer performing mx test flights, but certainly engineering education is going to count 'massively' in the selection process.

Quoting EMBQA (Reply 5):
Most will have 10,000hrs +

Not one military pilot in a thousand accumulates this kind of flying time in a twenty year career. I had recently-retired (20 years) military pilots in new-hire pilot classes with as little as 1800-2400 hours total time. Had they not been well-educated and highly trained military pilots with exemplary records they would never have landed their airline jobs with that little flying time. They would have been beat out for the jobs by 6000 hour commuter pilots. If the wars drag on this may swing back some, but in the era from Vietnam to Desert Storm it was especially true.

The current team leader of the Blue Angels, according to his bio, has about 5300 hours and he flies FAR more than a test pilot will. The USAF Thunderbird leader claims only 3200 hours at the start of this season. A seasoned airline pilot might have more totat time than the entire team put together.

As I mentioned in another thread, when the DC-9-80 on a pre-certification test flight had a hard landing which broke the tail off. It was flown by a McDonnell-Douglas test pilot and the FAA project pilot. These two gentlement had less total time and less DC-9 time PUT TOGETHER than I have - and because of years of doing things other than flying, I am a relatively low time pilot.

Military test pilots - some flying experience, some accomplishment, but your education will be more important than a lot of other considerations. To start down that road you'd need to get into military pilot training without further delay. Factory jobs - some other road may do.

One other thing, 'cowboy' test pilots just get themselves fired these days. Flight test is a very disciplined activity. No one just takes it up and wrings it out to 'see what it will do' or some such Hollywood idea. Each flight is tightly scripted. I recall a well-known civilian test pilot being fined a big hunk of money for rolling the airplane one more time than the flight card called for. The only wild cards would probably be if something fails or something does not perform as predicted. Computer runtime is still cheaper than smoking craters.
 
L-188
Posts: 29881
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 2:53 am

Easy, built a homebuilt.

You will be a test pilot on every flight.

There is a flight school in Mojave Cailiforna that claimes to be a test pilot school but I understand they are expensive, and I don't know how serious they are about the claim.

Also check the manufacturer sites, always seems like Raytheon and Cessna are looking for people.
 
turnit56N
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2005 12:13 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 12:33 pm

I'm fairly sure that a military background is a must. When I visited Piper's factory in Florida they said that all of their test pilots have a military aviation background in addition to their engineering degrees. Since Piper mainly makes light general aviation aircraft, I'd imagine that if their test pilots are all ex-military, everyone else's are as well. Admittedly, that's a guess on my part.

As SlamClick said, test flights are rigidly controlled. The pilots are given a profile of exactly what speeds, bank angles, pitch attitudes, etc. they are to fly. Hot-dogging of any kind is not an option.

I have heard about the test pilot school out west, which is legitimate. If you can find any info on it, you'd have a better idea of what they recommend a potential test pilot to have in the way of experience.
 
tu144d
Topic Author
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2002 11:39 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 2:06 pm

Thanks a lot for the replies. Is the school out west you're referring to "The national test pilot school"?. The instructor bios seem very impressive. Two people had degrees from Caltech and MIT. It seems pretty legitimate albeit quite expensive. Most of the courses listed are courses I have already taken as an engineer including avionics, flying qualities, dynamic stability. Anyway, even if i decide to become a test pilot it won't be for a couple of years. This summer I will start taking lessons in PR while I still have the time. I start my new job with Boeing in August.
 
L-188
Posts: 29881
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 3:06 pm

Well like I said I think the EAA does seminars for guys that want to do the first flights on their homebuilts.
 
ThirtyEcho
Posts: 1411
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2002 1:21 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 5:11 pm

Load a 172 outside the CG envelope and, bingo, you are a test pilot.

Push weather and you can be right up there with Scott Crossfield.
 
SlamClick
Posts: 9576
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:09 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Mon May 08, 2006 11:16 pm

USC also had some aviation safety and accident investigation courses that are highly regarded in the industry and military. Something to do while awaiting your pilot training slot.

[Edited 2006-05-08 16:17:14]
 
aeroweanie
Posts: 1576
Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:33 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Tue May 09, 2006 1:30 am

If you don't have a pilot's license, I wouldn't gamble everything on becoming a test pilot. Becoming a flight test engineer is a more rational choice. You can directly hire into this position at many companies straight from college.
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Tue May 09, 2006 4:36 am

Quoting AeroWeanie (Reply 13):
If you don't have a pilot's license, I wouldn't gamble everything on becoming a test pilot. Becoming a flight test engineer is a more rational choice. You can directly hire into this position at many companies straight from college.

Sounds like a smart move. It's much easier to be in a company already and prove yourself over years of good, hard work than be hired directly into a coveted slot. Figures vary but it's said about 80-90% of positions are filled without public posting. Meaning internal recruitment and recommendations are your best bets.
 
EssentialPowr
Posts: 1732
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2000 10:30 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Tue May 09, 2006 1:28 pm

You can have a Phd in Quantum Physics and won't get hired directly as a test pilot, b/c you have no flight time. Figure out a way to get flight time, so that you have a concept in the seat of your pants what a "crossover point" is, forexample, and then apply to be a test pilot.
 
tu144d
Topic Author
Posts: 217
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2002 11:39 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Tue May 09, 2006 1:35 pm

I think people are misunderstanding me. I know i obviously cannot become a test pilot right now without flight experience. I am asking what is the best route to take so that i can equip myself with the necessary skills to be a viable test pilot applicant, i.e, join the air force and get flight time, try civilian piloting schoosl and get flight time. BTW, I am more interested in being a civilian test pilot than a military one.
 
L-188
Posts: 29881
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Tue May 09, 2006 1:44 pm

Quoting Tu144d (Reply 16):
I am asking what is the best route to take so that i can equip myself with the necessary skills to be a viable test pilot applicant, i.

My advice, try and get a job with cessna or Beechcraft doing their flying....I don't mean test flying but doing customer deliveries, demo flights ect.

That way you will probably get know the guys that actually do the test flying and they will get to know you.
 
EssentialPowr
Posts: 1732
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2000 10:30 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Wed May 10, 2006 3:29 am

My advice, try and get a job with cessna or Beechcraft doing their flying....I don't mean test flying but doing customer deliveries, demo flights ect.[/quote]

That's not likely either. The airframers have plenty of career corporate or retired airline types to deliver new a/c. The values of these a/c are so high, and the airframers have minimums for these positions. Who'd hire a new guy to deliver a new Baron? Way too much risk there!

Just go get your ratings, and realize that you need to like regular flying as a CFI or whatever b/f the test pilot stuff will happen.
 
wingscrubber
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2001 1:38 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Fri May 12, 2006 6:26 pm

I was talking to Mike Carriker on monday at the air league annual reception, he will be Boeings test pilot for the 787 amongst others. He was telling me how he came to be a test pilot more or less by accident, he started out in the Navy and just got landed with a test pilot job. From the Navy he progressed on to the Empire test pilots school at Boscombe Down and then was hired by Boeing after leaving the military. (But managed to get a degree in the process)
This is a much abbreviated version of the story he told, but evidently, there is no sure fire course to becoming a test pilot, however I would imagine alot of commercial/military flying hours would help alot.
 
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Starlionblue
Posts: 21143
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Sat May 13, 2006 12:18 am

Quoting Wingscrubber (Reply 19):
I was talking to Mike Carriker on monday at the air league annual reception, he will be Boeings test pilot for the 787 amongst others. He was telling me how he came to be a test pilot more or less by accident, he started out in the Navy and just got landed with a test pilot job. From the Navy he progressed on to the Empire test pilots school at Boscombe Down and then was hired by Boeing after leaving the military. (But managed to get a degree in the process)
This is a much abbreviated version of the story he told, but evidently, there is no sure fire course to becoming a test pilot, however I would imagine alot of commercial/military flying hours would help alot.

As I said back in Reply 3: ""Luck is where preparation meets opportunity."
 
SlamClick
Posts: 9576
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2003 7:09 am

RE: Becoming A Test Pilot

Sat May 13, 2006 12:53 am

Quoting Tu144d (Reply 16):
I am more interested in being a civilian test pilot than a military one.

Okay, important piece of information. Now are you talking about civilian airliner or civilian light planes?

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