What a flight test engineer does in a day’s work

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Welcome to The Work Day, a series that chronicles a single day in the professional lives of diverse women – from gallerists to stay-at-home parents to CEOs. In this episode, we hear from Emma Davis, a flight test engineer who logged a day’s work in August.

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Location: Burlington, Vermont

Job title: Flight test engineer at Beta Technologies

Previous jobs: Senior Ground Test Engineer (September 2020-September 2021); flight test engineer (January 2018-September 2020); Graduate Teaching Assistant and Mathematics Tutor (September 2016-May 2017); mechanical engineering intern (May 2015-August 2016)

Which led me to my current position: I work at Beta Technologies, an electric aerospace company based in Burlington. I’ve lived all over the country and moved from out of state for this job – but since then I’ve loved the area and call it home. Passionate about aviation from a very young age, I spent five years as a test engineer in an aerospace company after school. When I discovered that Beta – a leading aviation technology company – would teach me to fly helicopters and allow me to pursue my career in flight test engineering, it was clear that this was the right one. choice for me.

How I spend most of my working day: At Beta, we’re developing the first all-electric aircraft for commercial use, and as a Flight Test Engineer (FTE), I’m part of the team responsible for building and executing a flight test program. evaluation of the performance and safety of our aircraft, the ALIA-250. We are moving towards the ultimate goals of certifying the aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration and delivering it to our customers. It is therefore crucial that we test every system on the aircraft to ensure that it meets the highest standards of safety and reliability. Flight testing is the foundation of any aerospace program because it provides that roadmap for measuring and tracking the development of an experimental aircraft against those standards. My submission below focuses on a typical flight test day.

On non-test days, I spend most of my time writing test plans to prepare for future flight tests. These plans are the basis for the safe execution of ground and flight test events on ALIA. Therefore, creating them requires the team to determine how we will actually run the test, as well as how we define success. A key part of this equation is understanding what the testing requirements are – for example, what data do engineers need to help validate that our aircraft is safe and exceeds FAA standards? It can take up to a day to prepare a flight test briefing and coordinate the timing of a test event, depending on the complexity of the test, so it keeps me pretty busy.

4h40: I usually wake up before 5am and hit the gym for an hour or two before going to work. I’m a CrossFit fanatic and like to start my day with a good sweat. I also like to dance and dance moves can often be seen in my workout, whether or not they are part of the exercise described!

8am: What I do when I arrive at work varies depending on whether we are doing a flight test, which we do a few times a week, and often daily. To perform a test as seamlessly as possible, an ETP is responsible for a lot of prep work, including writing a test plan, test cards, coordinating with all SMBs in the aircraft (subject matter experts), preparing briefs and conducting safety assessments. When I act as a test driver (TC), I spend my morning making sure all gear is finalized and ready before pre-briefing and takeoff.

12 p.m.: Lunch at Beta is always a highlight of my day. We have a great team of staff who always cook the best meals – and it’s also a time for everyone to get away from the computer, plane, 3D printer or anywhere else where the team is usually stationed during the day, to refuel and recharge together. I’m not from Vermont, but I’ve found a real community of friends in Beta and beyond.

2 p.m.: Game time! During the flight test event, I run the control room and give point-to-point test clearance to execute the mission at hand. In other words, I manage the details of the test flight and communicate directly with the test pilot, who is at the controls of ALIA. While communicating closely with the pilot, I also review a subset of data that provides high-level insight into the health of the aircraft and draws on information from SMEs that monitor their specific subsystem in detail. , such as the engine. . If an SME sees something abnormal in its data, I intervene to facilitate communication between the engineer in the room and the pilot in the seat in order to judge wisely whether the tests can be continued safely or not. We collect a wide variety of data to identify general trends and aircraft performance, including things like battery usage, engine temperature, structural load data, and more.

5 p.m.: There’s often a small crew of us taking a short walk before splitting up after work – it’s a good time to catch up on life outside of Beta and enjoy some time at outside during the day.

6 p.m.: Then I go home and read the books. I’m working hard to study for my private helicopter pilot license. Beta offers all team members the opportunity to receive free flight training. It’s a way for us to gain a first-hand understanding of aviation and aviation systems, which will inform our design and work on ALIA. It’s also really, really fun. After graduating, I spend the evening hanging out with my two amazing cats.

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