Flight engineers serve as in-flight operators in older airplanes. They diagnose and attempt to fix mechanical and electrical problems as the plane is in-flight. Although many contemporary planes no longer require flight engineers, older planes that are still in operation do. The job requires not only significant training and skill, but also a certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The airline that employs you may place additional demands on you, and some types of aircraft require specialized training.
Flight engineers must complete complete a two-year course in aircraft maintenance. The FAA requires flight engineers to complete college-level training in mechanical, electrical or aeronautical engineering from an accredited institution. To prepare for this intense training, you must have a strong background in science, math and engineering. You may have to take additional courses before you start your flight engineer training. You'll also need to be at least 21, and able to read, write and speak fluent English.
To become a flight engineer, you must be licensed as a commercial pilot. This requires you to attend pilot training at an FAA-approved school, and learn how to operate, control and fly a plane. Training usually takes several months, depending on the program you choose and your schedule. You must have 20/20 vision -- or vision that can be corrected to 20/20 -- to pursue training. To be licensed, you must pass a flight test and accumulate 50 hours of cross-country flight. You must also accumulate three years of broad, general experience flying airplanes. Your experience must include at least five hours of flight training covering the duties of a flight engineer; 100 hours of flight time as a flight engineer; and 200 hours of flight time in a transport-category airplane.
Knowledge and Skills Tests
Flight engineers have to take a battery of knowledge and skill tests to be certified by the FAA. These include the flight engineer practical and knowledge test, as well as written exams covering topics such as weather, flight theory and medical performance. For each test, you must get a certain percentage of the items correct; the percentage varies depending on the test. You'll also have to prove you're medically fit to serve as a flight engineer by obtaining a second-class medical certificate from an FAA-approved doctor.
The final step in the journey to becoming a flight engineer is the in-flight knowledge test. This test evaluates your abilities to perform basic flight engineer duties in real time, in addition to weighing your ability to respond to common challenges and in-flight emergencies. Once you pass this exam, you can seek final certification to become a flight engineer. The certification process requires you to submit all test results, as well as proof of your age and English-speaking ability, to the FAA. You'll also have to show that the tests you took were administered by a flight engineer certified by the FAA. Once you have paid fees and obtained your license, you can begin applying for jobs with airlines.
- Federal Aviation Administration: Flight Engineer Knowledge Test Guide
- Gleim: Requirements to Become a Flight Engineer
- Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Flight Engineers -- Aeronautical Experience Requirements
- CV Tips: Flight Engineer Training -- How to Become A Flight Engineer
- Aviation Pros: So You Want to Be a Flight Engineer?
- USA Today: Ask the Captain -- What Does the Flight Engineer Do?
- Federal Aviation Administration: Pilot Training
- Stick-n-Rudder Flight Training, LLC: Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Pilot
- Photo Credit belphnaque/iStock/Getty Images
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