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|Acceptance Test Flight
Author: KenG 211 Posts Status: Exceptional Pilot ||Date 10-02-08 10:38|
When a company orders an airplane someone is always picked to be the crew that goes and picks up the new bird (or an airplane just
finished from rebuild). Often it is a crew that is very experienced in the type of airplane as well as someone who is qualified in performing
an Operational Check of the aircraft.
Ops Checks are just that, after an airplane has completed major maintenance someone gets the lucky short straw to take it up and make
sure that everything works properly before we put passengers in the back. Mostly major maintenance such as when we have to hang a
new engine, remove flight controls or surfaces, ect. You just want to make sure that everything is working right. There is a detailed
checklist that is developed, usually by the manufacture, in which you follow step by step to check all of the items. Despite how it sounds it
is actually very safe procedure so long as you have planed out the flight and table talked the procedures. All Ops Checks begins with
ground runs that must pass before we take her up. When I Ops Check an airplane I demand that all panels where the mechanics
conducted work are off so that I can personally inspect the areas. Sure the mechanic will perform the work, conduct a check of the work
and another mechanic will QC the work, but one extra set of eyes can not hurt anything and I get to see an area of the airplane that most
pilots will never see other than photos they received during type training.
An acceptance test flight is a big Ops Check. We test everything, because the company is getting ready to hand over a big check for the
airplane and we are the final people who will certify that the airplane is acceptable. We receive a binder with everything about the airplane
from its order sheet, to how it is to be outfitted, and the color of the materials in the airplane. If beige leather and rosewood trim was
ordered than that is what we expect. We will sit down with the manufacture test pilots who will go over the aircraft log books with us
detailing all of the runs that the airplane has already gone through. We are usually not the first pilots to have flown the plane, often the
manufacturer's pilots will have already put a few hours on the engines already. Any squawks that they found will be diligently checked by
Once we do the meet and greet and scrutinized the books we will go see the airplane. This is really the fun part, we may have already
seen our new girl on the ramp but now we get to get close and familiar with her. New airplanes are just like new cars, they have a
distinctive smell to them. I don't know what it is but I can not help but take in a deep breath as soon as I climb the airstair door. Between
the books and the exterior and interior checks we generally don't even get to fly the airplane the first day.
If we found any discrepancies on the first day we will mark those on the squawk sheet for the manufacture to fix. Since an airplane on the
ramp waiting for a check is loosing the manufacture money they are usually very quick to fix anything that we find. We will double check
the squawks that we found and will finally get ready to put some air under the wings of the airplane. We will have the GPU hooked up so
we can test all of the avionics and radios prior to firing up the engines. Modern equipment has very good BIT tests so often the gear either
works or it does not work. But, we will still push every button and turn every knob (both directions) and make sure that the expected
outcomes happen. We will make radio checks with tower, load flight plans (manually and with a DTD if available), test the autopilot, even
down to putting up the sun screens and checking the auto-dim features of the EFIS. More write up on the squawk sheet and then as long
ad nothing is MEL (Minimum Equipment List), we go fly.
Well, go fly is a relative term as we start the engines, then continue with more tests. We ground check everything comparing gauge
results with charted values. Before we rocket down the runway we want to know that the engines are producing minimum acceptable
power, the pressurization is working, and that generally the airplane is behaving in an acceptable manner. Sounds like a preflight? Well
the ground checks with engines running often takes an hour or more. Once all of that data has been checked and rechecked we can
finally call tower for clearance for takeoff.
Even as we rocket down the runway the pilot not flying is busy crosschecking instruments, recording numbers and still trying to complete
his copilot duties. Usually I allow the other guy to fly the takeoff as I am competent at collecting and recording the numbers. Yep that is
correct the junior guy gets the cherry take-off in a new airplane on its acceptance checkride. Now the fun begins as you continue to aviate
and navigate as well as check and double check. Some of the systems will only tell you if they are going to work after take-off. i.e. we can
not test the gear on the ground. We climb away, turning toward an area that we have coordinated with ATC to conduct our check flight in.
The pilot flying will take care of flying, clearing the airplane, and talking and I have my head buried in a dictionary sized checklist running
all of the tests. In fact generally if I see blue out the window I have missed a step in the checklist.
Most of the tests are routine and rather boring, but the part I usually enjoy is shutting down an engine. We will conduct an engine relight
check (shutdown the engine for three seconds then turn the fuel back on to see if the automatic relight works correctly) and a full
shutdown and manual start (usually one with starter assist and one without starter assist.) Once that is done we get to check the other
engine. High altitude checks, maximum forward airspeed as the entire airplane is checked and data is recorded. Just as we are running
low on fuel, as we also want to check the low fuel warning system, we are back at the airfield and perform our approaches. Coupled
approach and go followed by a nice enjoyable and manual approach and landing. Junior got the take-off so I normally tell him take the
checklist and I'll do the landing. The landing is not the smooth and gentle put you down nicely airline style, but we want to check the
maximum performance stop of the airplane so it is to the numbers with maximum reverse and full breaks when available.
Once done with the flight we will take all of the data, sit down with the manufacturer's pilots and go over the results. If anything did not
pass spec then the manufacture has to fix it and we will check it out the next day. There have been airplanes so bad that we have left and
told the manufacture to call us, but that is rare. Usually there are only minor squawks.
Once the airplane is ready to our satisfaction we send the acceptance test flight report back the Operations who will let the manufacture
know that the airplane has been accepted. Sometime we get to fly the new bird home, other times we get the economy class treatment on
an airliner as the company repositions us to check another airplane or send us home until needed again.
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|Re: Acceptance Test Flight
Author: KenG 211 Posts Status: Exceptional Pilot ||Date 10-03-08 05:17|
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