Aero-engineer skills up overseas

Published on Department of Defence (author)

Location(s): MoD Boscombe Down

Topic(s): Ships, Boats and Submarines, Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit

Lieutenant Bill Mikhail is presented a plaque by United States Navy Commander Clark Childers during a presentation. (photo: Unknown)
Lieutenant Bill Mikhail is presented a plaque by United States Navy Commander Clark Childers during a presentation.

In December last year, Australian Navy Lieutenant Nabil Mikhail graduated as a Flight Test Engineer from the United Kingdom’s Empire Test Pilot School in Boscombe Down.

The course is an intensive year-long program which qualifies aerospace engineers to conduct detailed flight testing and analysis of aircraft and related systems to ensure that they meet the Australian Defence Force’s rigorous safety and performance standards.

Working with pilots and engineers, Lieutenant Mikhail gained valuable experience working amongst course members from foreign industries and militaries, with representatives from Singapore, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

The course’s capstone project included a syndicate preview assessment which comprised of a full flight test campaign on an unfamiliar aircraft in a condensed period. 

The preview required student engineers and test pilots to apply their learned knowledge and demonstrate their understanding of flight test, planning, teamwork, problem solving and reporting findings with recommendations to the 'customer organisation.'

Lieutenant Mikhail and his team conducted their assessment on the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 helicopter, for its suitability in the anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare roles. 

Their efforts resulted in Lieutenant Mikhail and his syndicate being awarded the Patuxent Shield, awarded by the United States Navy Test Pilot School for the best Rotary-Wing Preview Report. 

The engineering course has prepared Lieutenant Mikhail for his subsequent posting to the Australian Navy’s Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit based at HMAS Albatross.

The unit relies on the specialist skills of a range of aviation flight test experts to conduct a range of intensive trials including determining operating limits for various combinations of helicopters and ships, known as First of Class Flight Trials.

Lieutenant Mikhail’s newly found skill sets will be put to good use by the unit during a very busy 2017 with trials scheduled for many of the Navy’s classes of ships.

Upon completion of the course, Lieutenant Mikhail has commenced postgraduate studies at the University of Cranfield, with a view to complete a Master of Flight Test and Flight Dynamics via correspondence.