I don’t remember when I first met Pete, but I remember when I first heard Pete. It was 2014 when I joined the Board of Directors for SFTE. Several years later, when we met in person, it was like I’d known him all my life. But once you start talking to him, you realize you haven’t. His biography is more impressive than he lets on, like his abilities and passions, one of which is pictured here.
We haven’t figured out how to preserve the history of our profession, how to write down what Pete’s influence meant to us. This is my inadequate attempt to try. He has a lot of life experience, and anyone would do well to give him a penny for his thoughts. I did, and here’s what he said, in his own words.
My $0.02 worth: Things won’t go as planned, physically, financially, politically – learn to roll with the changes.
Refusing to play politics doesn’t get you out of the game – you just become a pawn in the game. Find ways to engage the politics in ways that are compatible with your values, your conscience.
Read Augustine’s Laws – plenty of insight about aerospace (and other industries).
Learn to present and speak well EARLY; consider Toastmasters or the performing arts…
Get involved in Professional Societies – they foster connections, lessons, friendships. SERVE at the local, national, international level. Consider these activities to be an investment in your career! You should also have some fun doing this.
When you’ve made a mistake, admit early, work toward a solution – ASK for feedback/forgiveness…
When somebody tells you something is impossible…they’re revealing their lack of knowledge, finances, patience… How you respond is up to you…
Be careful who you follow, who you want to emulate – be sure to mix in several of your “heroes”.
When you have a mentor, make sure you are providing value to the person mentoring you. Then BE a mentor, without expecting anything in return, like a “pay it forward.”
You may not have liked writing in your younger years: It will be the artifact of your work, so it’s best to learn do write well, efficiently. It helps to read a great deal.
On writing: In flight test plagiarism isn’t discouraged, it isn’t expected – it’s GRADED. Learn to effectively plagiarize because there are very few times when a new “style” really changes the trajectory of an aerospace program. Test reports are best received when they follow the expected format.
I’d attribute some of this wisdom to BGen Nolan (USAF, Ret), Commandant at USAF Test Pilot School during the years I was invited to the graduation ceremonies. He always had “the last word” at the end of the ceremony…
Paraphrasing his words: With that [TPS Grad] Patch, you’ve earned a lot of street cred. Keep in mind you are working with people who have been doing this since before you were born – consider their experience and contributions. It only takes one “personality” to make a program painful. DON’T be that personality.
Those were in the pre-sequester daze when the graduation ceremony was a big deal in a hangar, a black tie affair, and I had the honor to attend as SFTE President (or designee of a less-than-local President) to give the R.L. Jones Award for highest scoring FTE in the class (an award sponsored by SFTE, at least in those days).
Curriculum vitae is Latin for “course of one’s life,” and I can’t think of a better analogy, a more fitting image. This is the course of Peter Donath’s professional life.
Pete Donath is a semi-retired Consultant Flight Test Engineer. Pete is a Director Emeritus of the Flight Test Safety Committee. Pete is a Fellow of the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE), an SFTE Lifetime Member, Past Director and Past President of SFTE and co-chaired the 2006 SFTE Symposium in Reno, Nevada. Pete is currently serving as the President of the Los Angeles Chapter of SFTE. Pete served as the General Chairman for the 2019 Flight Test Safety Workshop (Charleston).
Pete retired from a 21+ year career at Boeing where his last assignment was as an engineering manager in Flight Operations Engineering Customer Support. Pete was a Boeing Associate Technical Fellow (ATF) and Boeing Authorized Representative (AR), previously an FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER) with a background that includes certification, fleet support, flight testing and product development that spanned the Boeing Aircraft product line, including research, commercial and military aircraft. Pete was also a Boeing Designated Expert (BDE) in the fields of Flight Test, Flight Engineering and Aircraft Certification.
Pete started his Boeing career in Long Beach Commercial Flight Test and has extensive experience as a flight test crewmember on the MD-11, MD-80, MD-90, 717 and 747-8F commercial aircraft; he has additional flight test experience with fighters, bombers, missiles and radar aircraft such as the F-5, F-20, B-1, B-2, E-3 AWACS and several classified programs. Pete also provided Test Conduct and Test Planning services for the Boeing/NASA X-48B and X-48C Blended Wing Body Technology Demonstrators at NASA-Dryden (now NASA-Armstrong), Edwards Air Force Base. Prior to joining Boeing, Pete worked for 10 years at Northrop in aero, flight performance, weapons integration and flight testing. Pete spent one year developing mission planning software at GDE/BAe Systems.
Pete is also a Lifetime member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a Lifetime member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), a Lifetime member of the Soaring Society of America (SSA) and a Lifetime member of the 1-26 Association, currently serves as the Western Region Vice President of The Association.
[The 1-26 is a Schweizer designed, single seat glider of “limited performance requiring pilot skill” to fly distance or altitude].
Pete flies recreationally as well. He is “caretaker” for a 1948 Globe GC-1B “Swift” airplane, owns two Schweizer 1-26 gliders and several “project aircraft.” Pete holds several 1-26 records for altitude, gain of altitude and speed over a 300 km course. Including Test Crew experience, Pete has over 3,300 hours of flight experience and has flown more than 75 types of aircraft.
BS Aerospace Engineering, the University of Maryland (College Park)
National Test Pilot School Short Course
University of Kansas Short Courses (several over the years)
Caltech Systems Engineering Short Course
Two Time Antarctic Plunge Veteran (2018)