Career Definition of a Flight Test Engineer
Flight test engineers work with a variety of different types of aircraft. Their job is to determine whether the aircraft are working effectively. They start a project by establishing the performance variables they want to assess. They determine what type of data is important and then plan flight tests that will ensure they can collect relevant information. They have to ensure that the aircraft they're testing meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) performance regulations.
As they are developing the test criteria, they also prepare a budget for the anticipated testing costs. They then oversee the testing process and collect the required data. They use the data to determine how different systems are performing in different types of conditions. They then evaluate the test data and prepare reports on the results and form conclusions using the data. They help identify ways to correct issues they identify and collaborate with other engineers to revise design plans. They ultimately ensure that the aircraft meets performance expectations, adheres to applicable regulations and is ready to be certified.
|Educational Requirements||Bachelor's degree|
|Job Skills||Teamwork skills, analytical skills, attention to detail, multitasking skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, business skills, mathematical skills, budgeting skills, computer skills|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$85,416|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)**||6% (all aerospace engineers)|
Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Flight test engineers need to have a bachelor's degree. Degrees in aerospace engineering or electrical engineering are commonly required. Other areas of study that can prepare individuals for a career as a flight test engineer include mechanical engineering and computer information systems. A master's degree or practical experience may be needed to qualify for some positions.
Flight test engineers must have strong analytical skills in order to review large amounts of data and use it to inform their conclusions and recommendations. Attention to detail is important because they need to ensure that they have sufficiently tested all systems required and gathered sufficient data to form meaningful conclusions. They must be capable of multitasking because they are involved with many aspects of preparing aircraft and need to be able to meet deadlines. They also need strong communication skills to effectively present their findings.
Career Outlook and Salary
As of 2018, flight test engineers took home a median income of $85,416 per year. This figure was reported by PayScale.com. Flight test engineers are grouped with aerospace engineers on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. Over the ten-year period starting in 2016, the BLS expects aerospace engineers will experience a job growth rate of 6%. This is comparable to the average job growth rate for all occupations during this time frame, which the BLS projects will be 7%.
If you are strongly considering a career as a flight test engineer, then you may be interested in other engineering careers that involve assessing products and analyzing test data. Some other occupations that may appeal to you are explored in the articles that are linked to here.