When the new Boeing model 787 airplane launches for commercial use in May 2008, passengers will be able to travel around the world on one of the most efficient jets ever designed. Until then, only test flight engineers like Jason Lucier will be on board, making sure the Dreamliner family of jets can transport 250 passengers across 8000 miles as efficiently as promised.
"The flight test portion is like a dream," says Lucier, a Boeing Company engineer who will eventually get to take the new aircraft for a test spin. The plane is supposed to make nonstop flights between the U.S. and Asia possible - and with record-breaking speeds and fuel efficiency, using 20% less fuel than comparable-sized planes while flying Mach 0.85.
"It's exciting to be involved in a new program of airplanes that is setting a record for the aviation industry," Lucier says.
His official title is "EE System Design and Analysis Engineer," meaning a typical day in his Seattle office involves analyzing existing avionic electrical system designs and advising on technical solutions for the systems. For now, he's been deployed to the test flight department to advise the testing process for the new 787.
He'll help test the electrical systems to make sure they meet design standards, recommending whatever modifications he feels are necessary. He'll also be scrutinizing the advanced wireless communications systems that the pilots will be relying on for navigation.
"I find it very challenging because I'm constantly learning new things," Lucier says. He started his career as an avionics engineer for the U.S. Navy, a job he fell into after joining the military. He felt lucky, though, since he had always been inspired by his father's work in electrical power and electronics. Doing maintenance on F-14 planes gave Lucier the start he needed to get into a company like Boeing, where he's been for the last 11 years.
"I get to work on new technologies that are leading the market," he says, "for one of the premier airline companies in the world."