A test pilot is a person who drives an aircraft (such as an airplane or spacecraft) in ways that allow the aircraft to be tried out. The methods a test pilot uses to try out an aircraft are called "flight test techniques" (FTTs). The pilot uses the FTTs to find out if the aircraft works well or not.
In the 1950s, one test pilot died in an accident every week or so, but many fewer die today. This is because aircraft technology has been improved and because more testing is done on the ground rather than in the air. Also, unmanned aerial vehicles are now often used for testing. Still, the job of test pilot is more dangerous than other jobs for pilots.
A test pilot must be able to:
- Understand a test plan;
- Follow a test plan while flying a plane;
- Record the results of each test;
- Sense how the aircraft is behaving oddly, if it is doing so;
- Solve problems quickly if anything goes wrong with the aircraft during a test;
- Solve many different problems at once.
- Communicate flight test results to engineers and other pilots.
Test pilots must know about aerospace engineering in order to know how and why planes are tested. They must be more skilled than most other pilots.
Test flying became important during World War I, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in the United Kingdom. During the 1920s, more test flying was done by the RAE in the United Kingdom, and by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in the United States. In the 1950s, NACA changed into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Test flying became more scientific during these years.
The world's oldest school for test pilots is the Empire Test Pilots' School at MoD Boscombe Down in the United Kingdom. In America, the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School is at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The United States Naval Test Pilot School is at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. The school for test pilots in France is the École du personnel navigant d'essais et de réception (EPNER) in Istres, France. The only test pilot school for civilian (non-military) pilots in the United States is the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, California.
Famous test pilots change
Some famous test pilots include:
- Howard Hughes, American businessman and movie producer. Hughes test flew aircraft which were built by his company, Hughes Aircraft, and bought by his airline, TWA.
- Chuck Yeager, World War II fighter ace. On October 14, 1947, Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
- Neil Armstrong, X-15 pilot and NASA astronaut. Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.
- Charles Bolden, the current Administrator of NASA and a former NASA astronaut.
Other websites change
- The Society of Experimental Test Pilots
- Society of Flight Test Engineers
- Empire Test Pilots School Archived 2011-03-02 at the Wayback Machine, United Kingdom
- National Test Pilot School, Mojave, California
- U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School Archived 2005-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, Edwards AFB, California
- U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Archived 2015-06-28 at the Wayback Machine, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland
- EPNER Archived 2009-04-25 at the Wayback Machine