Imagine stepping into an aircraft that is being flown for the first time. That is the demanding role of the test pilot. We speak to Tore Reimers, who is part of the certification programme for the new Grob SPn

Were you always interested in aviation?

Tore Reimers
 © Billypix
It happened a bit suddenly for me. I was at the end of high school and saw the Norwegian air force's new Lockheed Martin F-16 fly by and was interested. I was planning for engineering studies, but the real plan was to apply as a pilot and, if they rejected me, I'd go for engineering - but they didn't reject me and here I am.

How did you become a test pilot?

I was in the Norwegian air force for 14 years flying transport aircraft. In my free time I started to study electronics. I saw an internal advert for test pilots and applied. I was selected and went to the International Test Pilots' School, which was based at Cranfield, and spent 11 months on the course.

I became a test pilot for the air force until 1997, and flew for Braathens for more than three years before I felt the urge to use my test pilot experience.

I had completed an engineering diploma and joined Dornier and was involved on the 728 regional jet. This has to be one of my highlights. It was very interesting and I had an influence on helping to shape the product, but Dornier went bankrupt a year and a half later.

I went freelance in 2003 as a test pilot instructor, a test pilot, a simulator instructor and did some corporate flying. By the end of 2004 I was working for Grob on a freelance basis. I went full time here in April last year.

What do you love about your job?

It is interesting work, especially with the variety. It's great to participate in an interesting project and do something new, that's the main reason. But of course I have nice colleagues too.

How involved do you get with the project?

I have flown over 200h on the SPn and the programme total is close to 500h. As a test pilot I am involved in the final production phase as well as the development phases. We find things that we don't like or don't think are certifiable and help propose changes to the engineering team. If the engineers agree, the changes are made and then we test them again. Once we get to the certification phase we are then flying the aircraft according to the certification requirements and proving that the aircraft is capable of performing against the Part 23 Commuter rules.

How different is it flying an experimental aircraft?

It is very different. Initially there will be corners of the flight envelope that haven't been explored. We have to know the exact status of the aircraft. And there are legal issues - what we are allowed to do with the aircraft based on its permit to fly. Then there are the technical systems - some will be fully operational, others may have certain limitations. You have to know which systems you can operate in flight, and how fast and how high.

The public impression of test pilots is very wrong. We are test pilots, not stunt pilots. The tests we are doing are done in a very strict fashion. There is not a lot of room for creativity in the air, but on the ground we have to help solve problems and find the solutions. We don't change the plan in the air. We're not cowboys and risk seekers! We're the opposite we try to reduce the risks as much as possible.

If I take a holiday for a week I have to spend time catching up with the engineers since my last flight, so that I know what has been changed. Otherwise I risk a big surprise in the air. Its dynamic nature is the big difference between a certificated aircraft and a developmental aircraft. Our aircraft is changing by the day.

How do you become a test pilot for business jets?

You can start as a corporate pilot or training captain for a manufacturer, and if they like you and you have a technical background they may offer you the upgrade. A degree in aeronautical engineering helps.

Grob is looking for test pilots, people with 3,000h-plus experience of twin business jets and some test pilot experience.

The most common way to become a test pilot is to join the military and apply through their schemes.


Source: Flight International