Flight TestingA forum for test pilots, flight test engineers, observers, telemetry and instrumentation engineers and anybody else involved in the demanding and complex business of testing aeroplanes, helicopters and equipment.
Feeling really rather small posting in the company of all here, but here goes....
Currently a final-year RAF sponsored (pilot) aero eng undergrad at a university with a pretty good reputation for the course, and I've somehow managed to get pretty good academic results so far. I'm very keen to become a test pilot at some point in the future, although I obviously appreciate this is some considerable way off in the future.
With the current state of the training system (a recent thread on the Mil Aircrew forum talks about spending a total of 18 months holding so far in three years of training), I was considering attempting a part time PhD while I work my way through the system. Obviously flying would be my absolute priority during flying courses, but I think I would have sufficient time to make reasonable progress during my holds. My personal experience of holding officers suggests that they are definately not the busiest people around! I was thinking of asking for holds at the UAS attached to the university in question.
I'm not thinking of attempting to enhance my career with this; it's something I want to do for myself, and I think (possibly hubristically) I have the necessary academic ability to do it. While my field of interest would not have an immediate direct application to the current RAF, it is still very aeronautical, and (in my view at least) of great relevance to future military aviation. I am completely prepared to fund my study out of my own pocket.
I've applied to a pretty reputable university, and interviews there went really well. I'm now in the process of submitting my official application, and have hit a sticking point. The university I'm applying to have only recently introduced the option of part-time study, and require a letter from your employer giving their consent. I duly contacted the lovely folks at Cranwell, who pretty much just laughed at me, saying that it would be completely without precedent and 'unlikely of success', before passing my letter along to someone else to make the official decision.
I'd really appreciate any words of wisdom, or indeed any thoughts/comments at all, from the posters on this forum. Having already received enough banter from my UAS mates I really don't feel like being shouted down on the Mil Aircrew forum!
Commendable initiative. However: 1. The PhD will not necessarily enhance your chances of ETPS selection. 2. A sound education, all-round flying experience/ability and motivation will. 3. You won't have time for extra-curricular academic study whilst you're doing IOT. 4. Take advantage of the holds to expand your flying operational knowledge. Want to be a FJ pilot? Consider holding RW or Multi, for example. Holding on a UAS will not, these days, give you much opportunity to fly very much at all, anyway. 5. Learn about the RAF whilst you're holding. Develop your leadership, management and communication skills within the Service environment. 6. Some of the most frustrated people I remember in the MoD flight test world were superbly academically-qualified pilots who had been manoeuvred into the Aero Systems Course to fill the 'pilot ' slots, but had really wanted to go ETPS. (A couple of the lucky ones DID get to do ETPS later.)
Meanwhile, enjoy the flying and good luck with your finals.
To add to idle stop's good words - learn how to write precisely and with style (not that most UK trained people don't know how to write well, but lots of practice never hurts). Get experience on as many different types of aircraft as you can - I'd seriously consider getting a civil flight instructor rating to fly light aircraft. If you're serious about the PhD, consider something outside your normal sphere of learning - those who cross boundaries (such as engineering and law) are incredibly useful people. And good luck.
If you can do it (time, service commitments, training...) and it's a burning desire, go for it.
However, I held for 18 months...it was without doubt the best time of my life to date. No responsibilities, all the adventurous training I could fit in (5 weeks skiing in a season, gliding, diving...).
What I'm saying is - would you want to commit to something the RAF, for all its apparent moves towards "in service learning", isn't going to sanction, when you might not have to hold for that long? And if you were to hold for ages you'd be throwing away opportunities that you wouldn't be offered again once you got to the front line. Unless you were to fly VC-10s or join the Royal Flight.
I'm not looking to do this particularly to enhance my selection potential for ETPS, as I said it's something I want to do for itself, although the TP selection aspect is definately a secondary factor in my thinking.
I'm not nieve enough to think that I could study while at IOT- as with flying courses I would put my studies on hold while at Cranditz. Similarly, having come through the UAS system I am very much aware of the lack of flying oppurtunities for holding officers. My rationale with a UAS hold would be to be as near to the University in question as possible, with relatively few responsibilities, to enable more study, making up for the periods while I am on courses. I do take the comments about using holds productively, whether for personal developement or AT (oh, sorry, AT is character developement, and not just a jolly...) fully on board though, I just think that using them for study could be seen as similarly productive.
Any other top tips like SC's about getting a flying instructor rating would be appreciated. I've already done a fair bit of gliding (~95 hours).
A little off-beat, but consider studying human factors This subject, particularly human behavior, has close links with all aspect of professional aviation, safety, design, military life, and even beyond into management.