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Test Pilot Career Overview

Test Pilot Career Overview

In Flight - Pilot - Test Pilot

The career of a test pilot is a highly specialized area of aeronautics and aeronautical engineering. A test pilots mission is to fly, evaluate new or modified aircraft for research and development (R&D), and determine if the aircraft meets prescribed standards.

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Position Description

There are many types of test pilots including, experimental, engineering, production, and airline.

Experimental and Engineering test pilots fly newly designed and experimental aircraft to determine if the plane operates according to design standards and, make suggestions for improvements.

Production test pilots test fly new planes as they come off assembly lines. New planes are tested for airworthiness before turning over to customers.

Airline test pilots, flight test airliners after major overhauls before the planes are put back into service. Airline test pilots also flight test new aircraft to be sure they are up to airline standards before the airline accepts them from the manufacturer.

The FAA hires test pilots. These pilots fly FAA planes with experimental equipment aboard to test performance of the equipment. They also fly FAA planes to test new kinds of ground based navigational aids such as radar or runway lighting.

While the various kinds of piloting jobs involve a variety of special circumstances, there are also a number of conditions that are common to all pilots.

All pilots flying for hire have progressed through a flight training program and have earned a commercial pilot's license or an airline transport rating. Most likely they will also have one or more advanced ratings such as instrument, multi-engine or aircraft type ratings depending upon the requirements of their particular flying jobs.

A pilot's "office" is the cockpit which contains all controls, instruments, and electronic communication and navigation equipment necessary to operate the aircraft. Some noise and vibration are noticeable, particularly in propeller aircraft.

They have a concern for safety including the safe condition or airworthiness of the plane; weather factors affecting the safety of the flight; flight regulations; air traffic control procedures, and air navigational aids designed to provide maximum safety in the air.

Pilots also have a dual responsibility. They must not only satisfy their employer, who might be an air taxi or an airline operator, but they must also demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that their flying skills, knowledge and state of health are at all times acceptable for the particular flying jobs they perform.

They must undergo frequent physical examinations and meet certain medical standards which vary according to the license which the pilot holds. A Class I Medical Certificate requires the highest standards for vision, hearing, equilibrium, and general physical condition. The pilot must have an exceptionally good health history with no evidence of organic and nervous diseases or mental disorders. A Class II Medical Certificate is less rigid, but still requires a high degree of physical health and an excellent medical history. A Class III Medical Certificate has the least stringent physical requirements. All three classes of medical certificates allow the pilot to wear glasses provided the correction is within the prescribed limits of vision. Drug addiction and/or chronic alcoholism disqualify any applicant.

The greater the number of flying hours and the more complex the flying skills, the more varied are the opportunities for advancement as a pilot. There are many chances to transfer from one kind of pilot job to another as flying hours are accumulated and additional skills are mastered. Frequently pilots double as flight instructors and air taxi pilots, or they may also operate an aircraft repair station with flight instruction and air taxi operations as sidelines. Many good aviation and airline flight crew jobs qualify pilots for jobs with governmental agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Working Conditions

Test pilots spend much of their time in the cockpit conducting flight tests. Although the work of a test pilot does not require much physical activity, there is considerable amount of mental stress and pressure. Testing and operating an aircraft in its developmental stages and pushing it to its maximum-performance abilities can be very dangerous. Of all pilots, the test pilot's job involves the most risk and hazards and can encounter emergency situations which they are expected to handle with skill and knowledge at a moments notice. They are asked to evaluate aircraft for its structural integrity, performance, handling, reliability and suitability prior to release for operational use.

Experimental test pilots expect the unexpected as a plane is tested to the limits of its design strength and performance capabilities. The production test pilot tests a plane on the basis of expected performance and known standards, as does the airline test pilot.

When not conducting flight tests, test pilots spend time in the office planning, developing, designing and researching test procedures. Highly technical written and oral reports and materials are prepared on flight experiences with recommend ways to fix any problems. Test pilot positions require that you apply various managerial skills using tact and diplomacy.

Test pilots may fly either during the day or at night, depending upon the requirements of the test flight. Airline test pilots often work at night or on weekends, as most aircraft are serviced at that time. Schedules can be irregular depending on the needs of the tests.

Typical Requirements and/or Experience

Educational requirements vary depending on the type of test pilot. Typically, broad discipline including the application of basic science, engineering, physical or computer science, mathematics, aeronautics, technical management, and organizational principle is necessary. A pilot certificate is required.

There are educational facilities that offer training specifically for test pilots. The National Test Pilot School located in California, is the largest civilian training center for test pilots in the world. Many test pilots come out of the U.S. Air Force.

A first class medical certificate and initial drug screen are required. Further screening and random drug testing may also be mandatory.

When interviewing for a test pilot position, you will be asked to show certificates, ratings, logbooks, or other appropriate records of flight time. Some companies also require you to demonstrate a flight check or ability to perform flight test techniques.

Education

Educational requirements vary depending on the type of test pilot. Typically, broad discipline including the application of basic science, engineering, physical or computer science, mathematics, aeronautics, technical management, and organizational principle is necessary. A pilot certificate is required.

There are educational facilities that offer training specifically for test pilots. The National Test Pilot School located in California, is the largest civilian training center for test pilots in the world. Many test pilots come out of the U.S. Air Force.

A first class medical certificate and initial drug screen are required. Further screening and random drug testing may also be mandatory.

When interviewing for a test pilot position, you will be asked to show certificates, ratings, logbooks, or other appropriate records of flight time. Some companies also require you to demonstrate a flight check or ability to perform flight test techniques.

Marital Status

Married and unmarried men and women, with or without children are eligible. Persons who are widowed or divorced, also are eligible.

It is the policy of most aviation companies to provide equal employment opportunity to all individuals regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law. Most aviation companies are strongly committed to this policy, and believe in the concept and spirit of the United States law.

Most aviation companies are committed to assuring that:

All recruiting, hiring, training, promotion, compensation, and other employment related programs are provided fairly to all persons on an equal opportunity basis without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law;

Employment decisions are based on the principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action;

All personnel actions such as compensation, benefits, transfers, training, and participation in social and recreational programs are administered without regard to race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law, and;

Employees and applicants will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination because they have exercised any right protected by law.

Most aviation companies believe in and practice equal opportunity and affirmative action. All employees are responsible for supporting the concept of equal opportunity and affirmative action and assisting the company in meeting its objectives.

Most aviation companies maintain Affirmative Action Plans for minorities, women, disabled persons and veterans.

EEOC has jurisdiction of the prohibitions against employment discrimination codified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. These laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) enforce the prohibitions against federal employment discrimination codified in the CSRA. The OSC will defer those bases of discrimination under EEOC's jurisdiction to the respective federal agency and its EEO process. The CSRA also prohibits employment discrimination in the federal government based on marital status, political affiliation and conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee, none of which are within EEOC's jurisdiction. Moreover, the law defines ten other prohibited personnel practices in the federal government, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of the OSC and the MSPB. See Prohibited Personnel Practices at http://www.osc.gov/ppp.htm.

Additional information may also be found on the the EEOC web site located at http://www.eeoc.gov/

Wages and Benefits

In the United States, minimum starting salary for test pilots is $25,000 with earnings topping out at $200,000 per year.

Salaries and benefits can vary. For an updated look at salaries in the aviation industry, view the Avjobs.com Salary Report.

Where the jobs are and who hires

Experimental and production test pilots are employed at all aircraft manufacturing plants which are located mainly in California, Washington, Kansas, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Maryland, Missouri, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Airline test pilots work wherever the airlines have overhaul bases, with the largest ones being found in San Francisco, Miami, New York, Tulsa and Kansas City.

Test pilot jobs are also available with the FAA and government agencies.

Opportunities for Advancement

Production and engineering test pilots may advance to the position of Chief Test Pilot. Airline test pilots eventually may advance to the airline's engineering or maintenance administrative staff.

Outlook for the Future

The demand for engineering and production test pilots will fluctuate with the development and production of aircraft. Over the next decade the production of general aviation aircraft is expected to increase, while that of commercial air transports will level off due to the introduction of the jumbo jets. Competition for pilots in the United States is expected to be fierce through 2006, according to the 1998 and 1999 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Training

There are several approaches to acquiring pilot training. The first is through flight instruction at FAA Certificated flying schools. The student must be at least 16 years of age and be able to pass a third class medical examination. Courses consist of 40 hours of ground school instruction where students learn the principles of flight, aerial - navigation, weather factors, and flight regulations. Flying lessons are conducted in dual controlled aircraft (20 hours dual instruction and 20 hours solo flight). The instructor judges when the student is ready to take the written and flight examinations which are given by FAA inspectors. Upon successful completion of both exams, she or he earns the private pilot's license which entitles the pilot to fly passengers, but not for hire. The private pilot can then undertake advanced instruction, learn to fly on instruments and earn a commercial pilot's license upon acquiring additional hours of flight experience. These achievements open up numerous pilot careers because now the pilot can fly for hire. Further study and experience could eventually earn him or her the Air Transport Rating to qualify as an airline pilot.

A second method of acquiring flight training is through pilot training in the armed forces. This entails no expense to the student other than a five year service obligation. With some additional study, the military pilot can qualify for numerous civilian pilot jobs upon leaving the service. The military services have been a major source of pilots for the airlines.

Thirdly, a growing number of colleges and universities offer flight training with credit toward a degree. The graduate leaves school with a private or commercial license, and in a few cases, an Air Transport Rating plus a degree.

Helicopter pilots can receive training in the armed forces or at special private FAA Certificated helicopter flight schools. Agricultural pilots can receive specialized advanced training at agricultural pilot schools.

Some airlines offer training courses for corporate pilots transitioning to new jet aircraft. The airline's experience in jet flight training makes them particularly well qualified to provide this service to business firms.

To locate educational facilities with programs related to this position, search Avjobs Aviation School Directory. The Avjobs Aviation School Directory makes researching and finding an aviation college, university, flight school or professional training facility simple.

Miscellaneous

Preparing a Professional Pilot Resume

It is true many major carriers do not request a resume, and during the interview process, the interviewer will refer primarily to you company application. However, a concise, error-free resume will add a professional, organized touch to your "paperwork" presentation. A resume also comes in handy if there is special information you want the interviewer to know but can find no appropriate place on the company application to list these important facts. Writing your own resume and completing company applications can be relatively "pain free" if you spend the time to collect all the information you need BEFORE beginning the writing process. This information has been provided to help you in composing both your resume and specific company applications. Sections Include: Points To Remember, Resume & Application Information/Resume Writing Examples, Resume Layout Example.

Points to remember

Resume
It is best if your resume is one page
Have your resume professionally printed
Use white or light ivory colored paper, 25lb., 100% cotton weight. Use the same paper for your resume, cover letter and reference sheet
Do not put the word "resume" on your resume.
Do not include references on your resume. References should be on a separate sheet
Do not leave employment gaps of more than 2 months
Basically list only your "adult work history." If you worked during high school or college, list your descriptions under EDUCATION and place it after the listing of your degrees and/or course work title

Example
B.S. in Aviation Management from Metropolitan State College. To assist with college and flight training expenses worked all four years as a fueler/airplane scheduler/ground instructor for local FBO
You may title your separate sections whatever you please (i.e., Work History could be Experience, Employment History, etc.). No matter what titles you choose every resume should include:
Flight Time/Certifications/Ratings, Employment History, Education
Individualized sections may include:
Specialized Training, Community Involvement, Interests, Honors/Awards
You may list your PERSONAL INFORMATION (birthdate, height/weight, etc.) but it is not necessary

Applications
It is important that your application is presented as professionally as possible. Remember, this information is YOU on paper
Unless it specifically states to "PRINT" or unless you have incredibly fine penmanship it is much easier to read if it is typed
Leave no blank spaces. If a question is not applicable to you write "N/A"
As stated earlier, the company application will be the primary information source for the interviewer. For this reason it is important to use all available space on the application to point out any special traits or experiences you may possess. Many applications ask questions such as "Is there any other information you would like us to take into consideration?" Use this space to sell yourself! For example: if there has been no place on the application to list you community involvement, or no opportunity to discuss your college scholarships or military flying awards this type of question would be the place to briefly list these facts

Resume and application information collecting & resume writing examples

Compile this information before filling out any applications or writing your resume. Check off each item after completion.

Flight time____ List specific flight time/certifications/ratings
____ List types of aircraft flown
Work history____ List ALL your work history beginning with the most recent. Include military service, company names, dates employed, job title, job duties (list in order of importance)
____ List reasons for leaving (return to school, advancement, company furlough, etc.)
____ List any awards of achievements through you employment
____ List names, addresses and phone numbers of possible references

RESUME EXAMPLE

Your job description may need only be as simple as this:


ABC Airlines- January 1984 to December 1990
Los Angeles, California
First Officer: B-737-300

Or you may need, or want, to be a bit more specific:

XYZ Flight Center(FAR Part 141 Flight School) - June 1984 to July 1987
Denver, Colorado
CFI-I: Conducted private, commercial, flight and instrument instruction

United States Air Force- January 1970 to December 1987
Los Angeles, California (final assignment)
Primary positions included Aircraft Commander, Instructor Pilot and scheduling Officer. Entered the service as a Second Lieutenant, retired as Lt. Colonel
Top Graduate of Squadron Officers School. 1986 USAF Flying Safety Award
Education & specialized training____ List all your formal education beginning with the most recent. Include Degree received and/or area of study. Name of school, city, state
____ List any awards or achievements, outstanding grade point average (GPA), scholarships or information concerning how you funded your education. Include any offices help or sports played
____ List any specialized training you have taken on your own

Resume example
Formal Education
B.A. in Aviation Management. Metropolitan State College, Denver, Colorado
Graduated with GPA of 3.5/4.0 scale. Funded entire college education and flight training through part-time employment and scholastic scholarships. Four years Ellis Scholarship Award. Two years Achievement Scholarship
(If you did not graduate) Studies in Aviation Management at Metropolitan State College - 2 1/2 years

Resume example
Specialized Training
Graduate of Mountain Flying Program and Advanced Aerobatics from ABC Aviation College, Denver, Colorado
Community involvement____ List any current or continuing volunteer experience. Volunteer title, name of volunteer organization, basic duties, awards or achievements received

Resume example
Committee Member for local Red Cross Emergency Housing. During family emergencies or natural disasters secure housing, food and clothing for those needing assistance. Volunteer of the Month - June 1988
Interests, honors or awards____ List any hobbies or interests. Be specific if you have unusually in-depth interests or interests which are applicable to flying. This section is for honors or awards which do not fit under the headings of EDUCATION, WORK HISTORY OR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Resume example
Ranked #4 in the state in both singles and doubles tennis 1989 and 1990
Restore antique airplanes. Restore and sell an average of 2 airplanes per year
MiscellaneousAccidents/Incidents/Violations

____ Although this information will NOT be on your resume, you will need specific information in order to complete company applications. Begin immediately to collect all the necessary paperwork

Now is the time to start collecting all your documentation

____ Update your logbooks. (No matter what your experience level major carriers want specific, clear descriptions of your flight time.)
____ Write away for your driving record, FAA records and educational transcripts
____ Your passport should be up-to-date
____ Gather all the originals of your licenses and make clear copies
____ Have your past employers and personal contacts write their letters of reference. Keep a file of all these letters
____ Make sure you are fully aware of any medical situation which could cause problems during your company physical. Have your cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, eyes and hearing checked

John Smith
1122 Anyplace Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80000
Primary Number 303/555-1212, Messages Taken at 303/555-1313 or 719/555-1414
Objective: Flight Officer

Total flight time7,985
Pilot in Command:
Turbojet:
Turboprop:
Multi-Engine:
Instructor:
xxxx
xxxx
xxxx
xxxx
xxxx
CertificationsAirline Transport Pilot: Airplane Multi-Engine Land
Commercial Privileges: Airplane Single Engine Land
Flight Instructor: Airplane Single Engine Land and Instrument
Flight Engineer Written Exam: FEB/FEJ
FAA Class 1 Medical
Experience

ABC Airways, Inc. - August 1987 to present
Boston, Massachusetts. FAR Part 121 scheduled air carrier
First Officer: CV-580

DEF Airlines, Inc. - August 1983 to June 1987 (periodic employment as needed)
Westerly, Rhode Island. FAR Part 135 scheduled commuter and charter
Captain: PA-32-300, PA-28-235

GHI Airlines, Inc.- April 1986 to October 1987
Los Angeles, California. FAR Part 135 scheduled commuter
First Officer: SA 226/227

JKL Flight, Inc. - July 1984 to March 1986
Manchester, New Hampshire. FAR Part 121/135 scheduled commuter
First Officer: SD3-60, DHC-6

MNO Aviation, Inc. - September 1981 to June 1984
Greeley, Colorado. FAR Part 141 flight school
CFI-I: Conducted commercial, flight instructor and instrument instruction

PQR Flight Center- February 1980 to September 1981
Watkins, Colorado
CFI-I: Conducted private, commercial and instrument instruction

Education
Studies in Education at The University of New Hampshire - 2 1/2 years
Graduate of the Fixed Wing Professional Pilot Program. ABC Aviation College, Los Angeles, California

References: Available upon request.
Availability:
Immediate, two weeks notice preferred.

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Test Pilot Career Overview

Test Pilot Career Overview

Test Pilot Career Overview

Test Pilot Career Overview

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