8 reasons to quit your job and become a test pilot

Alexey Nikolaev
Mikhail Belyaev is a test pilot and was the first person to fly the new Russian MiG-35 fighter jet. Sure, this is a dangerous profession, but here are a few reasons you might consider it over a 9-to-5 job.

1. Your childhood dream comes true

Mikhail Belyaev is a test pilot for the MiG Corporation. / Alexey NikolaevMikhail Belyaev is a test pilot for the MiG Corporation. / Alexey Nikolaev

Mikhail Belyaev spent his entire childhood at a military airport. From dawn to dusk, he would watch Soviet fighters and bombers taking off and landing. And this atmosphere, with the noise of roaring engines and the smell of burning kerosene, was so captivating that the boy already knew what he wanted to achieve in life.

Now Belyaev has reached the pinnacle of his career in aviation. He is a test pilot for one of Russia's most important design bureaus, the MiG Corporation, and he is the first person in the country who gets to fly the new planes.

2. You must be honest and responsible

A test pilot is only a small part of the completion of a new plane. Behind him is a staff of a thousand. These people are responsible for the designs, blueprints, production and assembly of the plane as well as ensuring it is prepared for flight. All of this is a giant task, at the forefront of which is the test pilot. This is why a pilot’s honesty and responsibility before the team are critical.

3. It is like being the first person to drive a new Porsche, Lamborghini or Ferrari. Only in the sky. And faster.

Pilot’s honesty and responsibility before the team are critical. / Alexey NikolaevPilot’s honesty and responsibility before the team are critical. / Alexey Nikolaev

The prototype for the multi-role fighter jet, MiG-35. is much more expensive to make than a standard series plane. Each time a pilot takes off, dozens of people wait on the ground in order to analyze all the information that has been recorded related to the flight. Each plane has dozens of kilometers of cables, sensors, computers and other recording devices.

All the information from the flight is collected and examined. After subsequent adjustments are made, the pilot basically sits down in a new plane the next time he takes off.

4. You will sleep at least eight hours a day

"Sleep and nutrition form the foundation of flying." Pilots are taught this when they are still cadets. If test pilots sleep for less than eight hours per night, they will feel weak and incapable of correctly carrying out the flight. Tell this to your colleagues by the coffee machine tomorrow.

5. You will have to fly around the world

The life of an aviator is full of excitement. / Alexey NikolaevThe life of an aviator is full of excitement. / Alexey Nikolaev

For example, Mikhail Belyaev regularly participates in aviation shows in France (Le Bourget), the UK (Farnborough), Germany (Berlin), India (Bangalore), UAE (Dubai) and other countries.

6. Once again: you will spend years and years flying new planes

If pilots sleep for less than 8 hours per night, they will feel weak. / Alexey NikolaevIf pilots sleep for less than 8 hours per night, they will feel weak. / Alexey Nikolaev

After the approval of the blueprint, it takes an average of five to seven years to create the first plane. Subsequently, flying and combat tests are carried out, and only after their successful completion is the plane accepted into the aerospace forces. All this time, the pilot will have to be sitting behind the joystick, making circles and pirouettes above the airport.

7. You will be the first to test the new missiles and guns on the plane

"I remember when I tried out the 30mm guns on the fighter for the first time. In brief, at the sides of the cockpit you have two barrels with ammunition of 150 rounds that can be fired at a rate of 1,500 shots per minute. For a few seconds, a wall of fire appears at your sides, the cockpit shakes, the recoil is awful…And in just a few seconds you have fired all 150 shots."

8. You learn to make quick decisions

 A test pilot is only a small part of the completion of a new plane. / Alexey Nikolaev A test pilot is only a small part of the completion of a new plane. / Alexey Nikolaev

Taking off in a prototype plane is not only a great pleasure. It is also a lot of responsibility. To lose the only version of a fighter plane in the world, costing several billion dollars, is a tragedy for the entire corporation, not to mention the pilot.

"Modern planes have many sensors and a false alarm is always possible. You have from three to five seconds, at the most, to understand the situation and make a decision. Otherwise, it will be too late and the plane will burn up or explode after 15-20 seconds."

Read more: 5 incredible aerobatic maneuvers by the Russian Knights

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