What is flight test? As a concept, flight test sounds exciting – it implies having "The Right Stuff” because “failure is not an option.” It suggests first flights of prototype vehicles, with orange wiring and experimental components. Boldly pushing to the edge of the envelope… and a maybe a bit beyond. Even the Marvel superhero movies feature test pilots!
The previous post asked the question, “what is flight test?” In addition to offering a definition, it promised a methodology for professional flight test that can be learned and practiced. Let’s dive into that methodology, with an overview of the two guiding principles for flight test. The two foundational concepts for flight test are model validation and the build-up approach.
Earlier in this series, we established that flight test is more than a job title. Rather, flight test exists to answer essential questions during product development related to verification and validation. Similar to the scientific method, flight test uses model validation and the build-up approach as fundamental strategies for efficiency and risk control. The next step to describing flight test should be one of prioritization, since testing everything would take forever and require infinite budget.
Advanced aerospace products can be developed with greater efficiency and confidence. Professional flight test is a perspective and methodology that can be learned and practiced. By applying the fundamentals of model validation and the build-up approach, both established and start-up aerospace development teams can minimize recursive design delays and even avoid costly disasters. This article explores some of the tools used by test pilots and flight test engineers – the data collection methods known as flight test techniques.