Gregory Soneson, flight test engineer supporting the CH-53K platform with Naval Air Systems Command, is a participant in the Engineer and Scientist Development Program.

Patuxent River, MD – For as long as Gregory Soneson, a native of Downingtown, PA, can remember, he has had a passion for aviation. Soneson is a participant in the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Engineer and Scientist Development Program (ESDP) and since September 2014 has been working as a flight test engineer in the NAVAIR Rotary Wing Aeromechanics Branch (AIR supporting the CH-53K platform ., as of September 2014.

“This is my dream job to be working with state-of-the-art rotorcraft,” said Soneson. “I was really attracted to the idea of being able to work at NAVAIR where I can potentially work closely with many different aircraft platforms throughout my career.  At NAVAIR, you can climb aboard and get up close and personal with various aircraft systems — that is very appealing as a flight test engineer.”

In the ESDP, employees must complete two rotations during their three years of training. Developmental rotations are vital for gaining the breadth of knowledge and experience necessary for an employee in the ESDP to progress into a successful journey-level member of the workforce.

In April Soneson began his first five-month rotation working with Sikorsky, allowing him to work side-by-side with Sikorsky‘s design engineers. This unique rotation offered him the opportunity to see the design process of the CH-53K, which in turn gave him an additional technical vantage point as a NAVAIR flight test engineer.

“One of the most rewarding and insightful aspects of this rotation is being able to gain a broader understanding of the methods and processes between industry and government engineering counterparts,” explained Soneson.

“My involvement is with the development of CH-53K control law functions to meet program requirements in preparation for first flight,” he said.  “I’m also involved with supporting flight control system software testing and analysis through piloted simulation evaluations in Sikorsky’s motion-based flight simulator and flight controls system integration lab.”

Soneson’s rotation unexpectedly developed from a collaborative piloted flight simulation session between NAVAIR and Sikorsky in which engineers and test pilots were addressing the CH-53K flight controls and flying quality characteristics.

“Often, such as in Greg’s case, employees are presented with a rotational opportunity they might not have expected,” said Stephanie Gleason, ESDP program manager. “Meetings can often turn into a rotational interview, so I encourage employees to always be prepared for the next professional growth opportunity and to build a strong network.”

Before Soneson began his rotation he and his supervisor, Rick Funchion, Rotary Wing Aeromechanics Branch head, established a communication plan to allow him to continue to be in contact with his team about his learning experiences while on rotation. Soneson also credits his mentor, Eric Fallabel, NAVAIR CH-53K flying qualities and flight controls test lead, for setting a good example of how to learn as much as possible, stay modest and be genuinely friendly to everyone with whom he works.

“Thanks to ESDP and its encouragement of work rotations, I hope to expand my technical knowledge of the CH-53K and improve professional relationships between NAVAIR and the rotorcraft design community for a smoother flight test process,” said Soneson. “In five years I hope to still be working with NAVAIR as an engineer. The outstanding people I get to work with would make it hard to want to leave.”

For more information,  please visit ESDP or call 301-342-2216.