Test pilot

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Eugene Lefebvre, test pilot and world's first pilot to be killed in an accident while flying a powered aircraft in 1909 Eugene Lefebvre.jpg
Eugène Lefebvre, test pilot and world's first pilot to be killed in an accident while flying a powered aircraft in 1909
Leon Lemartin, The world's first test pilot, under contract to Louis Bleriot in 1910 Leon Lemartin (1911).jpg
Léon Lemartin, The world's first test pilot, under contract to Louis Blériot in 1910
Chuck Yeager in front of the history-making Bell X-1, first test pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947 Chuck Yeager.jpg
Chuck Yeager in front of the history-making Bell X-1, first test pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947

A test pilot is an aircraft pilot with additional training to fly and evaluate experimental, newly produced and modified aircraft with specific manoeuvres known as flight test techniques. [2]

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In the 1950s, test pilots were being killed at the rate of about one a week,[ citation needed ] but the risks have shrunk to a fraction of that due to the maturation of aircraft technology, better ground-testing and simulation of aircraft performance, fly-by-wire technology and lately, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to test experimental aircraft features. Still, piloting experimental aircraft remains more dangerous than most other types of flying.

Test Pilot Qualifications

A test pilot must be able to:

Test pilots must have an excellent knowledge of aeronautical engineering, in order to understand how and why planes are tested. They must be above-average pilots with excellent analytical skills and the ability to fly accurately whilst following a flight plan.

Test pilots can be experimental and engineering test pilots (investigating the characteristics of new types of aircraft during development) or production test pilots (the more mundane role of confirming the characteristics of new aircraft as they come off the production line); many test pilots would perform both roles during their careers. Modern test pilots often receive formal training from highly-selective military test pilot schools, although other test pilots receive training and experience from civilian institutions and/or manufacturers' test pilot development programs.

History

Test flying as a systematic activity started during the First World War, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in the United Kingdom. An "Experimental Flight" was formed at the Central Flying School. During the 1920s, test flying was further developed by the RAE in the UK, and by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in the United States. In the 1950s, NACA was transformed into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. During these years, as work was done into aircraft stability and handling qualities, test flying evolved towards a more qualitative scientific profession. At the insistence of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first American astronauts, the Mercury Seven, were all military test pilots, as were some of the later astronauts.

The world's oldest test pilot school is what is now called the Empire Test Pilots' School (motto "Learn to Test - Test to Learn"), at RAF Boscombe Down in the UK. There are a number of similar establishments over the world. In America, the United States Air Force Test Pilot School is located at Edwards Air Force Base, the United States Naval Test Pilot School is located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland and EPNER (Ecole du Personnel Navigant d'Essai et de Reception - "School for flight test and acceptance personnel"), the French test pilot school, is located in Istres, France. The only civilian school in the United States is the National Test Pilot School, a not-for-profit educational institute located in Mojave, California. In Russia, there is a Russian aviation industry Fedotov Test Pilot School (founded 1947) [3] located in Zhukovsky within the Gromov Flight Research Institute.

Notable test pilots

See also

Related Research Articles

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Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket

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Northrop X-4 Bantam Experimental small twin jet airplane

The Northrop X-4 Bantam was a prototype small twinjet aircraft manufactured by Northrop Corporation in 1948. It had no horizontal tail surfaces, depending instead on combined elevator and aileron control surfaces for control in pitch and roll attitudes, almost exactly in the manner of the similar-format, rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163 of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe. Some aerodynamicists had proposed that eliminating the horizontal tail would also do away with stability problems at fast speeds resulting from the interaction of supersonic shock waves from the wings and the horizontal stabilizers. The idea had merit, but the flight control systems of that time prevented the X-4 from any success.

Joseph A. Walker American test pilot

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Albert Scott Crossfield American test pilot

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Igor Volk Soviet cosmonaut and test pilot


Igor Petrovich Volk was a Russian cosmonaut and test pilot in the Soviet Union.

Convair XF-92 Experimental interceptor aircraft

The Convair XF-92 was an early American delta wing aircraft. Originally conceived as a point-defence interceptor, the design was later used purely for experimental purposes. However, it led Convair to use the delta-wing on a number of designs, including the F-102 Delta Dagger, F-106 Delta Dart, B-58 Hustler, the US Navy's F2Y Sea Dart as well as the VTOL FY Pogo.

Mikhail Gromov (aviator) Russian and Soviet military aviator, test pilot and researcher, Hero of the Soviet Union

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John S. Bull U.S. Navy test pilot, engineer and astronaut

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United States Naval Test Pilot School

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John H. Griffith NASA test pilot

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National Test Pilot School Commercial test pilot training institute in Mojave, California, United States

The National Test Pilot School (NTPS) is the only civilian test pilot school in the United States, located in Mojave, California. It is organized as a not-for-profit educational institute under California state law and is governed by a Board of Trustees. NTPS is one of the seven test pilots schools worldwide recognized by the international Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), giving pilot graduates of NTPS instant initial acceptance into their Society. In 2016, NTPS became the first test pilot school in the world to be certified as a Flight Test Authorised Training Organisation (ATO) by the European Aviation Safety Organization (EASA).

A flight test engineer (FTE) is an engineer involved in the flight testing of prototype aircraft or aircraft systems.

Gromov Flight Research Institute aerospace flight research and testing centre

The Gromov Flight Research Institute or GFRI for short is an important Russian State Research Centre which operates aircraft test base located in Zhukovsky, 40 km south-east of Moscow. The airfield is also known as Ramenskoye air base.

EPNER is the French test pilot school, based on the Istres Le Tube Airbase, France. One of the five main test pilot schools in the western hemisphere, EPNER maintains close links with the three schools; the Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS); the United States Air Force Test Pilot School (USAFTPS) and the United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS).

Aleksandr Fedotov (pilot) Soviet test pilot and military personnel (1932-1984)

Alexander Vasilyevich Fedotov was a Soviet test pilot who was a Hero of the Soviet Union, Honored Test Pilot of the USSR, Lenin Prize holder and Major-General of Aviation.

Fedotov Test Pilot School Soviet and Russian test pilot school to train also flight navigators and flight test engineers

The Fedotov Test Pilot School or FTPS is one of two test pilot schools in Russia. The school was established in 1947 when Russia was part of the USSR and is named after Aleksandr Vasilyevich Fedotov, a test pilot who was killed in an aircraft crash in the 1980s.

Pavel Vlasov merited test pilot of the Russian Federation

Pavel Nikolaevich Vlasov is a Russian test pilot, engineer, one of the Gromov Flight Research Institute directors (2010-2017), Chief of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre and Hero of the Russian Federation.

References

  1. Léon Lemartin (Ai. 1899)
  2. Stinton, Darrol. Flying Qualities and Flight Testing of the Airplane. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., 1996, p. 265
  3. Знаменская, Наталья, ed. (2002). ШЛИ со временем [ShLI in Time] (in Russian) (2 ed.). Жуковский: ООО "Редакция газеты "Жуковские вести". p. 400.

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