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Boeing test pilot confident as 787 returns to service

The Boeing test pilot that flew the FAA certification flight last month has complete confidence in the airplane as it returns to passenger service.

Heather Ross put the 787 through its paces during the 90 minute certification flight April 5, and she said it performed as expected. She has no doubts in the plane as it returns to flight. “I am very confident in the battery fix that we have established on the airplane,” she said during a Boeing web chat last week.

Ross is one of five female test pilots at Boeing. She’s an aeronautical engineer from the University of Washington. She worked as a Boeing engineer before flying for the Air Force and then commercially. Then Ross returned to Boeing as a test pilot in 1997.

“I think my best 787 flying experience was the first flight on the airplane that was assigned to me during the flight test program, that was the number-4 airplane,” Ross said. “When I effectively got thrown the keys to go fly that airplane for the first time, it was really exciting.”

Asked whether she was ever scared during 787 testing, that included stretching the newly designed composite airplane to its limits, Ross said, “excited maybe, nervous maybe, but not scared.”

Her advice for aspiring test pilots is simple. Stay in school. Get a four year degree, preferably a degree in engineering.

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