Lieutenant Commander Henry Parkinson

Henry’s unique role within the Royal Navy led to some challenges with his professional registration application, however, his determination allowed both the Royal Navy and the IET to better understand the work he undertakes.

Image of IET Member, Henry Parkinson


“I’d recommend professional registration to others, not just for the satisfaction you gain, but for the improved career prospects and also the membership of a dynamic institution which has a lot to offer,”



Henry Parkinson currently works as the Officer In Charge (OiC) of the Flight Test Department (FTD) at RNAS Culdrose. He initially joined the Royal Navy as an air engineer officer after completing an MEng in aerospace engineering at Bristol University, before sub-specialising as a pilot and eventually a Sea King pilot. He spent nine years flying helicopters, including a search and rescue tour in Cornwall and a tour of Afghanistan. On completion of his Afghanistan tour, he was then selected for his current job.

The OiC role includes acting as the Sea King Maintenance Test Pilot (MTP), responsible for providing his command an independent assessment of the airworthiness and capability of all the Sea King aircraft at RNAS Culdrose, through formal maintenance test flying.  

He oversees the equivalent output from the Merlin MTP and is also in charge of the newly formed Military Airworthiness Review Team (MART), which has been set up to issue all aircraft at RNAS Culdrose (Hawk, Avenger, Merlin and Sea King) with an annual airworthiness review certificate, after having carried out an annual airworthiness review.

A unique dual-role within the Royal Navy

His role is quite rare in that there are only ever five MTPs in service at any one time, and that the role is ‘dual hatted’: MTPs are both pilots and engineers.

“It is a unique [role] because we are engineers who have qualified as aircrew to do the full roles required of aircrew within our flying specialisation, having qualified as an air engineer officer prior to that,” he explains. “We offer the Royal Navy the unique ability to talk both the language of aircrew as well as that of engineers.”

Gaining the necessary competencies to apply for professional registration

It was when he took on this role that he first began to think about professional registration, as Incorporated Engineer (IEng) status was ‘tagged’ to the role.

“I started to look at the UK-SPEC competencies and felt that I wasn’t in a position to satisfy them yet, so I requested a year long waiver from the Navy in order to occupy my position and then work towards the required competencies,” he says.

“Even though my route had allowed me to look at engineering aspects I felt predominantly like a pilot rather than an engineer at that stage. As I gained experience in the role I felt that I was then in a better position to apply,” he adds.

Although Henry needed to gain IEng status for his current position, after putting in the time, and research, into his application he felt that he was capable of satisfying Chartered Engineer (CEng) competencies and so applied for that status.

“I had someone working for me who was IEng, and I felt that as I was leading a department, albeit a small one, it was very specialist and CEng sat better. Lead is a word linked to CEng and so I thought it would be worth a punt,” he says.

Proving himself

Henry’s unique dual career as pilot and engineer meant that his application process didn’t run entirely smoothly – after he’d sent in his forms he was contacted by IET staff and was informed that they felt he didn’t have enough evidence to support his application for CEng and possibly not even for IEng.

“They wanted to delay my interview in order to get more evidence,” says Henry. “Because I’d spent time as a pilot they were unsure of my credentials towards CEng. However, I assured them that I’d mapped all competencies sufficiently and that I wanted to go ahead with the interview. I basically had to convince my interviewers of my background and experience as an engineer in a critical management role, which I happily did!”

Henry’s efforts have allowed the IET to better understand the role of a Royal Navy MTP and have paved the way for his colleagues and future MTPs when it comes to applying for professional registration.

Although he’d not given it much thought before becoming OiC, he’s found gaining CEng rewarding and feels that as a flying engineer this accreditation will stand him in good steed when it comes to future employability, whether in the Navy or a civilian environment.

“I’d recommend professional registration to others, not just for the satisfaction you gain, but for the improved career prospects and also the membership of a dynamic institution which has a lot to offer,” he concludes.