About the Author
Sonja Englert is an aeronautical engineer and test pilot born in Germany. At 16 she started flying gliders, soon adding motorgliders and airplanes to her ratings. While still at high school, she worked as an apprentice at a German sailplane factory. She studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Braunschweig, where she gained an equivalent of a Masters Degree. During her time as a student she joined the Akaflieg Braunschweig, a group of students who spend their spare time designing, building and flying sailplanes. Sonja participated in building the high performance SB13 flying wing glider, which made its first flight 1988. For the following project, the SB14, she designed the composite wing structure as part of her thesis. As part of the IDAFLIEG, she participated in several flight test camps, which are dedicated to measuring performance and flying characteristics of gliders. The subjects of her Akaflieg test projects were investigations of drag reduction and quantifying the spin characteristics of gliders. As a highlight, in 1992, she won the National Cross Country Soaring Championship flying the SB 11, one of the Akafliegs older designs.
After completing her studies, she worked as project engineer for a company in Switzerland, which developed an all-metal two-place acrobatic trainer with bonded wing skins. The work included a full-scale wing fatigue test, several static structural tests and flight testing including spin testing. After accomplishing the Swiss and FAA certification, the project was sold to Malaysia. Subsequently Sonja spent some time there to help them start the production and assist with the local certification.
Back in Germany, she did the aerodynamic and structural design of a composite replacement wing for Mooneys, which would allow a Mooney, through extensive use of laminar flow, to fly about 20 kts faster on the same horsepower. After completing the wing design, she moved to the Florida in 1996, where she worked on several engine conversions, with the goal to increase propulsion efficiency and reduce cooling drag. Extensive flight testing showed much improved performance over the original designs. One project was the Teledyne Continental GAP prototype Diesel engine, which was installed in a Cessna 337. She was further involved with many STC projects and NASA funded research projects under the AGATE program.
In 2001 she joined Adam Aircraft to develop the A500, a composite, pressurized twin-engined airplane, with a centerline thrust engine arrangement, as a powerplant engineer. She also did the preliminary structural design of the tail and boom structure and the front and aft engine installations.
After the initial design work in Denver was completed, she moved to Oregon to join Columbia Aircraft (later Cessna) to work on the Columbia 350 and 400 development as a DER test pilot, powerplant engineer and flight analyst.
In 2017 Sonja joined Red Bull Air Race Team Muroya, where she helped Yoshi Muroya become World Champion. She analyzes flight data, always looking for ways to improve the performance.
Currently Sonja Englert works as a consultant aeronautical engineer and test pilot on a variety of projects.
Sonja has accumulated >4900 h with a commercial airplane and glider pilot license, with instrument and multiengine rating. She is a member of the Society of Exparimental Test Pilots and she has flown more than 90 aircraft models, of which about 40 were gliders and motorgliders. Flight test work has accounted for more than 650 flights. She enjoys flying a homebuilt Pulsar and her Caro 1 motorglider.