This article first appeared in the April 2018 Flight Test News.

xkcd media

In 1968, a small group of FTEs in Seattle officially formed the Society of Flight Test Engineers.  Less than a year later, man landed on the moon. Is this a coincidence? Yes, it probably is, but it highlights an important point.  Woven into the fabric of SFTE history is a series of profound changes in our profession, technology, and the world. We want our upcoming anthology to illustrate this with an infographic.  

An infographic depicts factual information in a visually compelling way.  The word infographic may not mean the same thing to everyone, so what I’ll do is draw your attention to the image at right.  The artist created a log-scale plot showing the height of objects ranging from the human scale to the intergalactic scale. If you visit the website, a more reasonably sized image is available there:   Follow the link and really soak in the creative ability and informational content of the image.  Start at the bottom of the image, at the human scale and work your way up. It is amazing, beautiful, and nerdy. Another appears later in the article:

Our flight test engineering infographic should include the span of the existence of SFTE, and the world events and technological changes that took place.  But a simple timeline may not be the most compelling or creative way to present this information. That’s where you come in: We want you to submit your ideas! 

What do you think a flight test engineering-themed infographic might look like?

Will it include a mini-icon of the Wright flyer? A tick mark showing  SFTE’s inception? A Lunar Module graphic shortly thereafter. What else? What are the key historical events? The background or x-axis of the scale doesn’t have to be something boring like a timeline.  The historical data could be presented on the outline of an airplane or the profile of a flight or the surface of a Moebius strip. How we present each milestone is also part of the creative design.  

In addition to the art layout, we need to collectively decide which milestones should be included. I’d like to start with 50 or so that we can whittle down to the most distinctive and important.  To help you grasp some of these events, Al Lawless, Lee Bell, and I have put together the following list, in no particular order.

1903 – Wright Flyer
first oscillograph, magnetic tape, hard drive recording
first use of telemetry
First use of ailerons
First aircraft carrier takeoff/landing
First documented mention of FTE-ing
First flight of jet a/c, rocket a/c, helicopter, etc
First FTE technical paper (make it a contest to find)
1947 Breaking Mach 1 Breaking Mach 2,3,4,5
First jet airliner enters service
1967 1st multiple aerial refueling (KC-135 to A-3 to F-8:  MacKay)
1968 SFTE founded
1968 First flight supersonic airliner (TU-144)
1969 Moon landing
1975 First supersonic airliner enters service (Concorde)
1976 SR-71A  (3 absolute records)
1977 MiG-25 absolute altitude record 37,650 m (123,525 ft)
1986 Rutan Voyager non-stop around the world flight records! supported by FTEs Bob Hoey et al
First flight of first trash hauler with a stick (C-17)
2004 Space Ship One (first commercial manned launch vehicle)
Perlan 2 glider altitude record (worthy of inclusion if it wins Collier)

The link below includes many more examples of infographics:

This article first appeared in the April 2018 Flight Test News.

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