What is the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE)?


April 28, 2016 – Cold Lake, Alberta – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) was established in 1971 by merging the evaluation establishments of the former separate services. AETE provides flight test services and expertise to the Department of National Defence (DND) for fighters, multi-engine, and rotary wing aircraft and systems. It is comprised of both military and civilian personnel, including Qualified Test Pilots, Flight Test Engineers, Qualified Systems Evaluators, maintenance and support personnel, and other specialists.

The AETE’s motto, Experto Crede, means “believe the one who knows from experience.” It exemplifies AETE’s mission: to gather information and knowledge so that DND can make informed decisions.

AETE’s Team

The qualified test aircrew who work at AETE are graduates of internationally-recognised Test Pilot School programs. AETE recruits experienced Pilots, Air Combat Systems Operators and Aerospace Engineering Officers. They are trained to become Qualified Test Pilots, Flight Test Engineers, and Qualified Systems Evaluators. They are the first to assess new or modified aerospace equipment and capabilities before they are released to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

AETE also employs military and civilian personnel who design and manufacture avionics to gather data, as well as experts in processing, analysing, and reporting on flight test data.

AETE’s History

Flight testing didn’t emerge in Canada until after the First World War, when Parliament created the Air Board to regulate air navigation. In 1920 an aerodrome in Rockcliffe, Ontario, was stood up and aerospace testing and evaluation began. Ground and aerial testing in support of Canada’s aerospace program included projects such as oil dilution systems for engine starts in winter, fog landing equipment, fire resistant flight suits, parachutes, and even aerial photography for mapping the country.

Canada’s flight test centre proved extremely valuable when the Second World War broke out in 1939. It carried out testing on electronics, gunnery, navigation, and other aeronautical elements. Due to the ever-growing demand and the skill and expertise of the small but sophisticated flight test operations, the RCAF officially reorganized the group into the RCAF Test and Development Establishment in 1940.

Over the next several decades, various test and evaluation units were stood up, each playing an important role in the development of Canada’s aerospace program. It wasn’t until the consolidation of these units in 1971 that the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE), located in Cold Lake, Alberta, became the premiere flight test agency for the Canadian Armed Forces.

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