Research & Innovation

Stevens Alumni Help Launch Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, one of the most anticipated commercial planes in recent years, has been performing test flights out of Boeing's facility in Washington state and has recently completed its first international flights, making initial descents to hubs where the planes will board passengers a few years down the line.

Robert Hoar '06, Stevens Institute of Technology alumnus and engineer with Hamilton Sundstrand, a division of United Technologies headquartered in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, is preparing for a future as an Entry into Service Engineering Representative for the new Boeing plane. Robert is one of several recent Stevens alumni working for Hamilton Sundstrand on the Dreamliner and other commercial aerospace projects.

Robert was tipped off to an opening at Hamilton Sundstrand by an e-mail from Stevens Office of Career Development.

"I was thrilled," says Robert Hoar '06. "I posted my resume, got an interview, and the rest is history."

[Click to enlarge] The Dreamliner plans to clean up the competition in part by truly being a "cleaner" plane. Made of lightweight composite materials with an enhanced wing design and running on efficient Rolls-Royce and General Electric propulsion, the new 787's are expected to produce 20% less carbon emissions than similarly-sized aircraft. Hamilton Sundstrand is providing a significant amount of hardware and systems on the plane including the environmental controls, primary and secondary power, the auxiliary power unit, and the nitrogen generation systems.

Living up to its name, the plane also promises an improved passenger experience, with dynamic LED lighting to simulate the passage of time, dual-filtered cabin air, custom-tinting windows, reduced cabin pressure and noise, increased cabin humidity, and turbulence sensors to provide a smoother ride. Hamilton Sundstrand is supplying a significant amount of hardware and systems engineering for the planes.

For now, engineers like Robert are monitoring flight tests on experimental 787 Dreamliner aircraft to certify the planes before customer delivery. Robert is kept very busy as he participates in hardware tests, assists in removals and repairs, attends pre-flight and post-flight meetings, and consults on issues regarding Hamilton Sundstrand equipment.

All part of the job, Robert was one of the first people in the world to fly in a Dreamliner when he caught a ride from Roswell, New Mexico to Edwards Air Force Base in California on the ZA001, the first plane in the Dreamliner test series. Since then, he has also flown on the test plan ZA006.

Once the Dreamliners enter into commercial service, Robert and the rest of the Entry into Service team will work with airlines to trouble shoot issues and ensure customer satisfaction. As each airline is supported by one of these teams for just six months or less, Robert will be airline hopping around the world for the next few years. His first stop will be Japan, where All Nippon Airlines, the Dreamliner's launch customer, is based.

Besides a willingness to travel, there is a broad skill set and expertise required to become a flight test engineer. Besides his Bachelor's of Mechanical Engineering from Stevens, Robert has attended trainings at facilities across the country to develop competence in all the technical areas of the plane over which he has responsibility. But he has also found that communication and time management skills are very important, in addition to an ability to handle the stress and pressures of intense environments.

"Commercial aerospace is a tough industry that requires hard-working, creative minds to continually come up with the next great idea," says Robert. "If planes are on the ground, they are not making money. You must solve problems, verify safety, and get the plane in the air."

Robert started in the Engines and Control Systems division at Hamilton Sundstrand, gaining fundamental experience with legacy aircraft and engines, and their associated fuel, pneumatic, and lubrication systems. He later moved into a development engine program, where he worked on the electrical and sensors systems for Pratt and Whitney's Geared Turbo Fan program, a commercial jet airliner engine. When approached by management for the Dreamliner Entry into Service position, Robert saw it as a fantastic opportunity.

"Flight tests are all about problem solving. My Stevens education gave me the foundations in math, physics, and engineering, while also demonstrating the interactions between the science and the world around us. Prospective students should ask themselves, 'Am I okay with trying something new, in the spirit of learning and education?'"

At Stevens, Robert was confronted everyday with the same problem-solving approach that dominates daily life in his professional career.

"The school's roots are founded on practical problem solvers. As a student, you learn through trial and error how the worlds of science and industry really work."

Robert encourages enthusiastic students to consider the diversity of options available in aerospace careers. Opportunities in the commercial space tend to be cyclical, like any industry, but there are also many career options with defense companies. Job seekers should also keep in mind the many challenges they will face in the industry—issues of technology, resources, and even language barriers—and use the hands-on skills developed at Stevens to work through these barriers.

Robert never knew that his engineering education could lead to a globe-trotting future. It all started here, at Stevens, The Innovation UniversityTM.

To launch your own engineering career, visit Stevens Office of Admissions for more information.