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Kansas State Polytechnic

Brendan Compton

Brendan Compton lands job at Hawker Beech, takes off in new aircraft

When Brendan Compton started his freshman year at Kansas State University Salina at the age of 17, he’d never flown a plane. He is now a production test pilot for Hawker Beechcraft, a job that stemmed from an internship after graduation.

Compton estimates 80 percent of his flights are test flights that stay within Kansas and the other 20 percent of his flights are ferrying aircraft for modification work, positioning aircraft for demonstration flights and airshows, and transporting company personnel.

"I might spend one day 'in the office' in Wichita, which means I'm doing test flights on anything from a Bonanza up to a Hawker 900xp. These flights range from a trip around the traffic pattern to a two-hour, or more, flight. The test flights include a mix of tasks such as aerodynamic stalls, engine shut downs and relights, aircraft trimming and rigging checks, pressurization checks, and engine and aircraft performance, just to name a few. The next day I might take a King Air across the country, stay for a few days, then fly it back."

He is qualified as Pilot In Command in the Beechcraft Bonanza, Baron, King Air 90, King Air 350, and Beech 1900. He flies as Second In Command in the King Air 200, King Air 250, Beechcraft Premier, and Hawker 750/800/900/1000. He also flies as Second In Command on contract test flights for the military on all models of C-12s and continues to earn Pilot In Command status on more models as he meets specific qualifications.

"I really like being able to fly so many different types of aircraft. It is cool to start the takeoff roll in an airplane that has never been in the air before. I also really like the way I am able to sleep at home most nights, yet still get the travel the country. The variety of what I get to do each week is amazing. I fly 400-500 hours a year, and this amount is perfect for me, as I get to fly a lot but not so much that flying becomes 'work.'"

When he graduated in 2010, Compton had nearly 800 hours.

The biggest challenge he faces is having to understand aircraft systems on such a large variety of airframes to the point that he can correctly identify and troubleshoot a problem and report the issue back to the mechanics.

"On most of the models I fly, I've attended training at Flight Safety to learn the aircraft systems. However, coming out of K-State definitely helped me. Not only having the ability to show in my interview and internship that I have the background knowledge to be successful, but also when I attended training I was much more prepared for the advanced systems and avionics in modern aircraft. K-State's program obviously provided me with the appropriate pilot certificates, but it is the advanced training and classes that helped me excel."

He's happy that he took classes such as crew resource management and advanced aircraft systems, as he believes they have been assets to his career advancement.
 
"But I don't want to downplay the importance of any of the other classes, as all of the aviation classes have played a role in my job. The ground training and experience flying the turbine systems gave me a great foundation for the aircraft that I fly now. Having at least a general idea of the systems in this level of aircraft is a huge plus when trying to find a job. The training in the CRJ simulator and FMS training also played a big role for me. The avionics systems taught are very similar to the aircraft that I fly now so I could focus more on flying the simulators in training and the airplanes at work, rather than trying to figure out the terminology and logic of the avionics."

"I feel very fortunate to have acquired this position at Hawker Beechcraft. Not only do I really enjoy doing what I do, but it also provides great flying experience. I couldn't have gotten a better job coming out of college, and much of this success can be attributed to the opportunities provided by K-State at Salina."

Brendan Compton

Brendan Compton, '10, Professional Pilot