Exploration of Flight Envelope

The most fundamental aim of test flying is to establish the safe flight envelope of the aircraft. This should, of course, be very similar to that planned for during the design process, but it is only by carrying out flight tests that this can be finally assured. There are a number of fundamental flight behaviors that must be established for all aircraft:

  • 1. confirmation of center of gravity location
  • 2. control response
  • 3. overall performance measurement
  • 4. stall angle
  • 5. stall behavior
  • 6. measuring lift/drag by glide testing
  • 7. propulsion system behavior and endurance
  • 8. calibration of pitot static system.
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Some of these tests will be carried out on the ground, either with the aircraft suitably restrained or by fast taxiing tests. Once these are completed flights can begin.

Ranking of Flight Tests by Risk

It is of course vital that tests start with the simplest action and using only the most conservative setting of control surface deflections. Then, once the pilot and team start to gain confidence, more demanding test sequences can be attempted. We certainly would not begin to carry out any autopilot-controlled flying until an exhaustive set of manual test flights in close proximity to the pilot and in benign weather conditions had been completed.

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