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The Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) shapes talented pilots, engineers, and aircrew into flight test professionals who deliver powerful strategic advantage and real commercial value.

Modern flight test programmes are complex and expensive endeavours, requiring a high level of knowledge, skill and hard work in order to get the maximum capability for defence from their air systems. Realising this potential while ensuring our aircraft remain safe to operate requires trained specialists with expertise in a broad range of theoretical, practical and analytical disciplines. Imparting these skills to our trainees is what we do here at ETPS.

As the world’s first test pilot school, ETPS leads the field in flight test training for both military and civilian customers. Over our 75-year history we have trained over 1500 students from 32 countries. They’ve brought into service many new, sometimes iconic, aircraft and mission systems, as well as extensively modifying those already in use, often with the most cutting-edge experimental technology and innovations of the day. This, in turn, has consistently increased the operational effectiveness of these aircraft for both the UK and our overseas partners. Some of our graduates have even been to the moon.

A school for the future

But while we’re proud of our aviation heritage, ETPS is absolutely focussed on the future and you can join us at a time when we are revitalising our school with new, state of the art, systems-rich aircraft, as well as a re-vamped, modernised course delivered in a truly 21st century learning environment. As a result, we deliver the very best, relevant, test and evaluation training to enable our graduates to meet the complex demands of modern developmental flight test programmes.

  • Modular, cost and time effective courses
    Delivered by expert tutors at our state-of-the-art training facilities, our enhanced modular courses cover experimental, development and systems flight test. We can design bespoke programmes to meet specific requirements, run refresher courses in key subjects, provide tailored training for specialist tasks, or conduct conversions to upgrade existing qualifications (for example Cat 2 to Cat 1).
  • Unique learning management system
    Our new, bespoke digital learning management system (LMS) is the only one of its kind among leading flight test schools. It provides advanced, specialist tools for interactive digital and face-to-face teaching, and supports collaborative learning. Accessible from anywhere in the world on almost any conceivable system, the LMS enables teaching at a time and place convenient to our students.
  • State-of-the-art fixed wing and rotary aircraft
    Our aircraft have all been modified to create ‘flying classrooms’ which meet both military and civil requirements. Their innovative glass cockpits have built-in flight test instrumentation suites to provide live flight data and enable realistic training scenarios. These enable training in specialist test techniques, such as air-to-ground radar testing, and the replication of entire sorties in the classroom for debrief and further study

We equip the world’s best pilots, engineers, and aircrew with the specialist techniques and skills needed to run effective civilian and military flight test programmes. Our 75-year history makes ETPS the longest established test pilot school in existence.

The state-of-the-art facilities, highly experienced tutors and modern and varied fleet we offer provide a learning environment that prepares graduates thoroughly – both practically and mentally – for their demanding roles.

Our history

ETPS was the world’s first school dedicated to teaching test flying.

Our founder, Group Captain Sammy Wroath, established the principles of flight test training in 1943: developing flying and engineering skills, practicing critical thinking, and taking a broad perspective in order to distil and communicate useful findings from complex flight test programmes.

These principles remain at the core of our training programme today – though we’ve constantly reviewed what we teach to align with our customer organisations’ needs, and train our graduates to succeed in demanding roles at the forefront of the flight test industry.

Our success

Rigorous and intensive, our dedicated fixed and rotary wing courses compress many years’ worth of experience in flight and systems testing into months. The syllabus is tailored to develop the precision flying and analytical skills needed to run cost-effective, efficient and safe flight test programmes.

Our graduates leave ETPS as highly skilled professionals who are ready to deliver powerful strategic advantage through flight test programmes that:

  • Optimise aircraft and systems design and performance;
  • Accelerate time to market;
  • Support regulatory compliance;
  • Build operational capability;
  • Drive return on investment;
  • Ensure the safety of personnel.

Civilian test professionals are prepared to drive commercial value from the word ‘go’ – immediately able to manage flight test programmes that optimise aircraft and systems design, accelerate time to market, and ensure regulatory compliance.

Graduates from our military courses are qualified to build operational capability from the outset, enabling organisations to get maximum effect from air platforms, ensure the safety of personnel, and support the commissioning of billion-dollar acquisitions.

ETPS works closely with customer organisations to meet their current and future flight test training requirements. By partnering with them on a long-term basis we help them to manage their cadre of test pilots and engineers and develop a talent pipeline.

How we're run

QinetiQ works with the Air Warfare Centre (AWC) under the Long Term Partnering Agreement with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deliver ETPS. As world leader in the field of testing and evaluation (T&E), QinetiQ’s deep expertise underpins everything from course design and teaching to safety and testing protocols.

All ETPS courses comply with EASA regulations, which we worked with EASA to define. We are one of only three schools in the world – and the first in the UK – to be recognised as an EASA Approved Training Organisation.

To learn more about how ETPS can empower your flight test professionals to success, please contact us.

The ETPS fleet is one of the most extensive, varied and modern in the flight test training world. Pilots and engineers gain direct experience of many different aircraft types and technologies, both civil and military.

This allows them to build broad expertise, fast. Our partnerships with other test centres and organisations around the world give students access to a broad range of training platforms.

Pilatus PC-21

Fixed wing aircraft

Pilatus PC-21

Delivering the next generation of flight test professional training at ETPS, our two Pilatus PC-21s are uniquely equipped to deliver advanced training. Developed especially for student pilots and featuring a Flight Test Instrumentation suite integrated with the systems rich cockpit environment custom developed for ETPS; the PC-21 is more than ready for the next generation of training at ETPS.

Grob G120TP

Fixed wing aircraft

Grob G120TP

Designed for next generation training, the two Grob G120TPs at ETPS provide an enhanced training capability for ETPS. As with the PC-21, each aircraft features a full Flight Test Instrumentation suite that integrates with the modern cockpit environment. The side-by-side cockpit configuration provides an agile and dynamic environment for flight training at ETPS.

Avro RJFixed wing aircraft

Avro RJ

Our multi-engine fleet at ETPS features two Avro RJ models, one RJ70 and one RJ100, that deliver a bespoke flying classroom environment for ETPS. In the cabin, student engineers are provided with an unparalleled learning experience through our custom flight test instrumentation workstations which provide a broad array of data for live analysis in the airborne environment.
Airbus H125

Rotary wing aircraft

Airbus H125

As the workhorses of our rotary wing fleet, the four H125s at ETPS provide a reliable and high-performance capability for flight test professional training. Each aircraft has been extensively modified for delivery at ETPS and features a complete Flight Test Instrumentation suite designed to gather valuable flight data that can be used in the classroom and for evaluation work.

Agusta A109

Rotary wing aircraft

Agusta A109E

Our two A109’s here at ETPS provide an advanced, twin engine platform ideally suited to training rotary wing flight test professionals. As with our H125s, each A109 features a bespoke flight test instrumentation suite which is further enhanced with an in-cabin workstation for flight test engineers to gather and evaluate data in real time.

Bell 412

Rotary wing aircraft

Bell 412

As our CS-29 helicopter, the Bell 412 at Boscombe Down enables our students to train on some of the most demanding test techniques required of flight test professionals. The Bell 412 also acts as our platform for end of course checks and enables students to perform a final, full test & evaluation cycle before graduation.

Diamond DA42 Fixed wing aircraft

Diamond DA42

The Diamond DA42 provides our students with a valuable example of general aviation performance and the advanced avionics that can still be encountered in this arena. As a result, it is a superb platform for systems training.

SAAB Gripen

Fixed wing aircraft

SAAB Gripen

ETPS is the only test pilot school that enables students to train in the techniques required to evaluate complex, cutting-edge, agile fighter aircraft and their associated systems. This fourth generation combat aircraft is used for the testing of aero-systems, advanced flight control systems, handling qualities and performance.

Calpsan Learjet

Fixed wing aircraft

Calspan Learjet

A vital element of training flight test professionals is demonstrating the impact of changes in control laws or aerodynamic characteristics on the flying qualities of an aircraft. Through Calspan’s Learjet In-Flight Simulator, students at ETPS are able to assess performance and handling qualities through the variable stability systems.

NRC Bell

Rotary wing aircraft

NRC Bell 205 / 412

Operated in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC) Canada, each Bell helicopter is an advanced variable stability aircraft that enables ETPS students to investigate handling qualities aspects in the low speed regime. Each platform enables delivery of longitudinal, lateral and directional flying qualities training and is a superb opportunity for students to perform unique feats of test & evaluation.

The ETPS training programme combines training in technical and analytical skills with developing a high-level practical understanding of aircraft and their systems.

Our courses are designed to build experience quickly – providing the combination of theory and hands-on familiarity that flight test professionals need.

Classroom learning and group discussions are coupled with exercises structured to replicate real-world test programmes, enabling students to put what they learn into practice.

Close collaborations with expert organisations and test centres around the world enable us to provide an exceptionally rich learning experience that gives students an insight into numerous working methods and environments, both military and civilian.

Learn in the air – Flying classrooms

Test pilots and engineers gain direct experience with many types of military and civil aircraft, across the full spectrum of performance. These include the Pilatus PC-21, Grob G120TP, Avro RJ, A109, Airbus H125 and – uniquely for a flight test school – a SAAB Gripen fourth generation fighter aircraft. Students also have access to a custom-built flight simulator.

All primary delivery platforms at ETPS have a fully bespoke Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) suite specially developed to support learning. This highly versatile system can grow to accommodate the latest learning techniques and stay representative of modern FTI systems employed in flight test programmes. Through a live telemetry feed to the ground station, the system also provides detailed data that can be used in our classroom analysis software, GDAS (Graphical Data Analysis Software), which was custom-designed by QinetiQ.

The Avro RJ70 Flying Classroom allows us to train entire classes from the air, with live readouts of flight for engineers and pilots from a fully bespoke FTI suite with both in-cockpit and in-cabin operation.

Learn on the ground – T&E Synthetics

Synthetics and simulation are a near essential element to any modern test & evaluation programme and ETPS continues to develop and deliver cutting edge capabilities specifically designed to provide flight test training.

ETPS utilises a broad range of synthetics and simulators across the globe to deliver our courses with everything from desktop simulators supporting familiarisation activities, through task specific exercise synthetics, all the way up to state of the art flying simulators allowing a single aircraft to represent a vast array of platform types.

The synthetic capabilities employed by ETPS provide a tailored approach to simulation that allows us to maximise understanding of learning outcomes. Our method provides greater training efficiency to reduce the time required to reach full comprehension of techniques.

Learn from the best – Unparalleled experience

Instructors are the most important element to the success of any school and at ETPS we have a diverse and highly experienced team of test pilots, flight test engineers, and academics with a Millenia of combined experience in the field to draw upon when developing and delivering courses.

Amongst our flight test instructors, you will find world-renowned experts in their respective fields from across both military organisations and civil industry who are frequently called upon to advise upon and deliver the latest flight test programmes. Through our instructor’s deep domain knowledge of both the theory and practical application of flight test they have written the book on test & evaluation and can bring their unique knowledge to bear in the classroom.

Passing on the knowledge, best practice, and lessons learnt to the next generation is a point of pride for our instructors and by attending ETPS our students gain a unique insight into the world of flight test & evaluation.

Learn in the cloud – Bespoke solutions

The ETPS Learning Management System (LMS) is the only system of its kind in the world, and enables a truly modern and adaptive learning environment with a full suite of interactivity tools.

Based on industry leading software and extensively customised by QinetiQ to meet the bespoke needs of ETPS, the system provides students with the means to work collaboratively with one another and their syndicate tutors. The LMS allows us to offer distance learning opportunities for our students, and features Panopto, a bespoke video platform in line with those used by the world’s leading universities, which provides transcription and feedback mechanisms to optimise learning.

Empowering students to learn in a style that best suites the modern professional via a fully integrated, modular learning environment. Through the LMS, we can minimise the time required away from regular duties to optimise learning efficiency.

To learn more about how ETPS can deliver to your flight test professionals, please contact us.

How we teach

Courses at ETPS provide flight test professionals with the skills and competencies required to safely and effectively conduct all forms of test flying, including civil certification and military release to service programmes.

Long Courses

For both test pilots and flight test engineers we offer three levels of graduate courses – Class A / CAT 1, Class B / CAT 2, and Systems Test – with all students completing a common foundation in Test & Evaluation (T&E) before specialising in either fixed wing (fast jet or multi-engine), rotary wing aircraft, or aerosystems flight test.

Class A / CAT 1
By completing a Class A course, test pilots and engineers are qualified to conduct experimental, ‘outside the envelope’ test flying over the course of 50 weeks. Graduating this course enables flight test professionals to lead both first-of-type and envelope expansion activities. Our Class A qualification also provides graduates with an EASA CAT 1 Flight Test Rating. For civil customers, ETPS offers a cost and time-effective civil-only qualification which provides an EASA CAT 1 Flight Test Rating in 44 weeks.

Class B / CAT 2
ETPS’ Class B course qualifies test pilots and engineers to conduct developmental test flying and is delivered in 26 weeks. This qualification enables aircrew to command ‘inside the envelope’ test flying or assist in experimental test flying. Our Class B qualification also provides graduates with an EASA CAT 2 Flight Test Rating. As with our Class A, ETPS offer civil customers an efficient civil-only qualification which provides an EASA CAT 2 rating in 24 weeks.

Systems Test Professional
The ETPS Systems Tester course enables graduates to conduct flight test of the advanced aerosystems found in modern aircraft. The course is aligned with our Class A and Class B qualifications and is delivered in 20 weeks. The emphasis of this course is conduct of aerosystems assessment in line with military regulations for manned aircraft.

Short & Bespoke Courses

In addition to our graduate courses, ETPS offers a range of short and bespoke courses for both new and qualified flight test professionals. These courses range from an Introduction to T&E through to advanced, bespoke course for existing test pilots and engineers to either expand their existing qualification or refresh advanced techniques ahead of trials work.

Evaluator Aircrew
The course is designed to introduce basic Test and Evaluation (T&E) principles and techniques to aircrew who are selected to join Test and Evaluation Squadrons, primarily to conduct Operational Evaluation flying. Aircrew who complete this practical course will have a grounding in the T&E environment including: how tests are planned and managed; how risks are controlled; the fundamentals of flight test data gathering; how to report analysis and conclusions; and how to assess common aircraft systems such as navigation and radar.

Helicopter Ship Interface Training
This two week practical course provides test pilots and flight test engineers with the necessary knowledge to carry out complex helicopter/ship interface trials including the establishment of ship / helicopter operating limits (SHOLs). It is also suitable for non-test pilots and non-flight test engineers who will be closely involved in future HSIT trials to enable them to become familiar with the techniques utilised in order to support that SHOL development activity.

Bridging Courses
Bridging courses will uprate test pilots and flight test engineers to Class A or CAT 1 standard to enable them to deliver complex flight test programmes for experimental aircraft or activities. Attendees will be taught the full advanced range of test techniques and analytics required for practically assessing the performance to specification of experimental aircraft and be capable of planning, operating, and reporting on multifaceted appraisal exercises.

Flight Test Professional Refresher
Complex skills can fade with time and these bespoke refresher courses aim to refresh a qualified flight test professional’s skill in both test techniques and analytical methods, plus the associated theory, to restore currency in essential fields ahead of a major trials programme. These courses can also be delivered to teams to enable your key team members to re-establish collaborative working skills for the flight test environment.

To discover more about our courses and how we can shape your flight test professionals, please contact us.