Test pilot

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For the film, see Test Pilot (film).
Léon_Lemartin, The world's first Test pilot,[1] by contract with Louis Blériot in the year 1910.

A test pilot is an aviator who flies new and modified aircraft in specific maneuvers, known as flight test techniques [2] or FTTs, allowing the results to be measured and the design to be evaluated.

Test pilots may work for military organizations or private, (mostly aerospace) companies. Testing military aircraft, in particular, is regarded as the most challenging and risky flying conducted in peacetime.

In the 1950s, test pilots were being killed at the rate of about one a week, but the risks have shrunk to a fraction of that, thanks to the maturation of aircraft technology, better ground-testing and simulation of aircraft performance, fly by wire technology and lately, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to test experimental aircraft features. Still, piloting experimental aircraft remains more dangerous than most other types of flying.

Qualifications[edit]

A test pilot must be able to:

  • Understand a test plan;
  • Stick to a test plan, flying a plane in a highly specific way;
  • Carefully document the results of each test;
  • Have an excellent feel for the aircraft, and sense exactly how it is behaving oddly if it is doing so;
  • Solve problems quickly if anything goes wrong with the aircraft during a test;
  • Cope with many different things going wrong at once.
  • Effectively communicate flight test observations to engineers and relate engineering results to the pilot community, thus bridging the gap between those who design and build aircraft with those who employ the aircraft to accomplish a mission.

Test pilots must have an excellent knowledge of aeronautical engineering, in order to understand how and why planes are tested. They must be above-average pilots with excellent analytical skills and the ability to fly accurately whilst following a flight plan.

Test pilots can be experimental test pilots (investigating the characteristics of new types of aircraft during development) or production test pilots (the more mundane role of confirming the characteristics of new aircraft as they come off the production line); many test pilots would perform both roles during their careers.

History[edit]

Test flying as a systematic activity started during the First World War, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in the United Kingdom. An "Experimental Flight" was formed at the Central Flying School. During the 1920s, test flying was further developed by the RAE in the UK, and by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in the United States. In the 1950s, NACA was transformed into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. During these years, as work was done into aircraft stability and handling qualities, test flying evolved towards a more qualitative scientific profession.

The world's oldest test pilot school is what is now called the Empire Test Pilots' School (motto "Learn to Test - Test to Learn"), at RAF Boscombe Down in the UK. In America, the United States Air Force Test Pilot School is located at Edwards Air Force Base, the United States Naval Test Pilot School is located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland and EPNER (Ecole du Personnel Navigant d'Essai et de Reception - "School for flight test and acceptance personnel"), the French test pilot school, is located in Istres, France. The only civilian school in the United States is the National Test Pilot School, a not-for-profit educational institute located in Mojave, California.

Notable test pilots[edit]

Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, pictured with his history-making X-1, was the first pilot known to have broken the sound barrier.


Some notable test pilots include:

Francis Evans (USMC), explored the best way to recover from spins, 1917
Flight Captain Erich Warsitz - the world's first jet pilot

Awards made to notable test pilots include the international Iven C. Kincheloe Award made by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Léon Lemartin (Ai. 1899)
  2. ^ Stinton, Darrol. Flying Qualities and Flight Testing of the Airplane. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., 1996, p. 265
  3. ^ Léon Lemartin (Ai. 1899)
  4. ^ Mason 1991, p.333.
  5. ^ Warsitz, Lutz: THE FIRST JET PILOT - The Story of German Test Pilot Erich Warsitz (p. 125), Pen and Sword Books Ltd., England, 2009
  6. ^ http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7018497/ns/news-black_history_month/#.UqY35PSfjFA
  • Hallion, Richard P.Test Pilots: Frontiersmen of Flight. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0874745498
  • Warsitz, Lutz: THE FIRST JET PILOT - The Story of German Test Pilot Erich Warsitz, Pen and Sword Books Ltd., England, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84415-818-8

External links[edit]