Mike Carriker, chief test pilot for Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, looked over the room of Wichita State University engineering students gathered to hear him talk Friday and smiled.
"I love to talk about airplanes," said Carriker, a 1978 WSU aeronautical engineering graduate.
The things WSU professors teach in their classes today "are the things I use every day of the week," Carriker said.
Carriker, who grew up in Baldwin City, spoke Friday afternoon at WSU's Marcus Welcome Center.
He's the "guy who has the weight of the 787" program on his shoulders in terms of flight testing, Julie Acosta, a Boeing executive, said while introducing him.
Earlier in the day, Carriker visited engineering classes. He wants to encourage young people to study or stay in the engineering field.
A large percentage of Boeing's engineers are eligible for retirement today, Carriker said. But there are not enough new engineers coming up the ranks behind them, he said.
Carriker joined the 787 program in its early stages in 2003. He was pilot in command on the 787's maiden flight in 2009.
Before the flight, his wife jokingly told him, "Don't crash into our house.'' The Carrikers live in the plane's flight path.
Since the first flight, seven 787 test airplanes have logged more than 1,000 flights and more than 3,100 flight hours.
In flight testing, safety is his most important job, Carriker said.
"Everything we do on this airplane is for safety," he said. That's number one."
Tests must be executed precisely so data matches what the engineers expect, and the tests meet the certification requirements for the aircraft, Carriker said.
Through videos, Carriker showed some of the testing the planes have undergone. Those tests include making sure the plane has enough lighting to make an emergency landing at a closed, unlit airport, how it handles in high crosswinds, during rejected takeoffs, during a maximum brake energy test, or when an engine quits.
It has undergone flutter, air speed, cold weather, crosswind and noise testing to determine targeted lift-off and landing speeds along with a host of other tests.
Carriker was a U.S. Navy pilot, flying A7-Es and F-18s. He graduated from Navy test pilot school in 1985.
He joined Boeing in 1990 as a production pilot. In 1998 he became chief project pilot for the 737 program. He later became chief project pilot for Boeing's Sonic Cruiser program before joining the 787 program.
He is type-rated in all Boeing aircraft in production.