A Limited Survey of Flight Test Education

This column first appeared in the Flight Test Safety Fact, 19-10.

According to widely accepted projections from multiple sources, the demand for aircrew of all kinds of aircraft will increase significantly in years to come. Currently, the industry is already feeling the demand surge and resultant shortage. Changes in demographics also affect the turnover and longevity of flight test professionals in the workforce. These trends, along with the diversity of aircraft entering the market and technological innovations like artificial intelligence, will certainly influence the way we educate and train flight test professionals for years to come. This month, we highlight several sources of flight test safety training and education.

Florida Institute of Technology

The first example is Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), led by Dr. Brian Kish, a retired US Air Force (USAF) Flight Test Engineer (FTE), USAF TPS graduate and former instructor, and SFTE member. In 2018, FIT partnered with Eglin AFB to provide short courses on site. According to the press release, “The first Eglin students for this short course were Air Force officers, an Air Force civilian engineer and flight test engineers from Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation.” FIT also offers courses at the university’s Extended Studies Site in Patuxent, Maryland. Kish plans to partner with the Flight Test Safety Committee’s Tom Huff to develop a graduate level course on Hazardous Flight Test. The course “examines planning and execution of hazardous flight test. Includes case studies. Covers the flight test safety review process including the development of general minimizing procedures as well as test-unique hazard analyses. Includes demonstrations of control room equipment and protocols.” FIT welcomes input from readers on improving its course material.

The SFTE Tech Council (TC), led by Al Lawless, has worked up a well-received webinar series reviewing flight test mishaps, material that anyone could review for refresher training and annual briefings. Each has been posted on the SFTE website. The TC always invites new content for this effort. For questions or contributions contact Al or any TC member.

Two more examples appeared in the newsletter. Col Doug “Beaker” Wickert, PhD, has taken the reins as the Department Head of the Aerospace Engineering Department at the US Air Force Academy: He describes the undergraduate flight test training elective course given to cadets. Additionally, Lorenzo Trainelli, PhD, professor and flight test program director at Politecnico di Milano University (PoliMI), describes the graduate instruction provided in a similar elective course.

The Flying Classroom at Coventry University

After publication, Mike Bromfield of Coventry University in the United Kingdom provided information about the university’s “Flying Classroom” initiative, how they teach flight dynamics and flight test to their undergraduate and postgraduate students studying aerospace systems and technology. According to Bromfield, “COTS technology is continuously changing and enabling us to lower costs and offer the experience to more students. The overall approach has also improved student learning and grades. The attached paper was published in the European Journal of Engineering Education.” Dan Griffith is the Test Pilot on the program. He’s currently active in Britain’s Light Aircraft Association and received his training as an exchange student at the US Air Force Test Pilot School.

Conclusion

This survey should provide readers with two things: 1) examples of the courses currently available for ongoing training and professional development and 2) a network of flight test professionals with whom to discuss innovation and development of flight test safety training. Both will benefit our profession and industry as we move toward an uncertain future.

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