The Society of Flight Test Engineers is a fraternity of engineers, whose principal professional interest is the flight testing of aerospace vehicles. The objective of the Society is the advancement of flight test engineering throughout the aerospace industry by providing technical and fraternal communication among individuals, both domestic and international, in the allied engineering fields of test operations, analysis, instrumentation and data systems.
the INDIA chapter
The India chapter, based at Bangalore, comprises of all SFTE Members and Associates from India. The chapter extends the professional association of Flight Test Professionals in India and aims to provide a forum for active discussion and sharing of information, knowledge and to develop a progressive culture for the development of aviation in the country. The chapter shall strive to extend active support and guidance to indigenous flight test activity, standardize and enhance awareness of flight testing among stakeholders in the Indian Aerospace ecosystem. The chapter shall foster flight test research and education in the country and aim to participate and contribute in SFTE events and symposiums worldwide.
Flight Test Engineering
Flight Test engineering can be summarised as the engineering associated with the testing, in flight, of an aircraft or item(s) of aircraft equipment. The aims of that testing can be very diverse: they may be to investigate new concepts, to provide empirical data to substantiate design assumptions, or to demonstrate that an aircraft and/or its equipment achieve specified levels of performance, etc. Thus flight testing covers a broad spectrum of topics, the common feature of which is that there is a degree of novelty in the aircraft, its equipment or its intended usage which requires assessment in flight.
It is generally accepted that a Flight Test Engineer (FTE) is a person responsible for coordinating and managing all the various activities involved so that the objectives of a particular series of flight tests are met. Thus he/she is responsible (in cooperation with the “customer” and the extended flight test team of test pilots, technical specialists, instrumentation engineers, data processing specialists, maintenance engineers, etc.) for the definition, planning, and execution of flight tests, and the analysis and presentation of the results obtained.
FLIGHT TEST is at the core of what organizations must do in order to validate the operation and systems on an aircraft.
WHY FLIGHT TEST?…
Over the years since the Wright brothers’ first controlled powered flight in 1903, extensive databases covering all the basic building blocks of aeronautics (e.g., aerodynamics, materials, and structures) have been accumulated. It might be argued that all aspects of a new aircraft’s design can now be investigated on the ground via wind tunnels, propulsion test stands, systems test rigs (e.g., “iron birds”, avionics “hot benches”, etc.), and by mathematical modelling/simulation by computer. Thus it may be wondered why flight testing is required at all. Many reasons could be advanced, but perhaps the principal ones are that:
• Adequate replication on the ground of flight conditions is often impracticable, if not impossible (e.g., it would not be possible, on the ground, to subject a fuel system to the range of acceleration forces (g) with which it must cope in flight)
• Particular flight conditions may be insufficiently well defined to be simulated (e.g., the flow field round an aircraft carrier may be unknown, or too complex to model)
• All but the simplest of aircraft incorporate many systems whose interactions are complex: the only practicable way of investigating those interactions is through flight testing of the complete aircraft
• Despite man’s best endeavours, significant discrepancies between actual flight behaviour and that predicted from calculation and ground-based testing are all too common (even in cases where the changes in design or required operating conditions are small) and, as a corollary, flight test data is essential to improve the accuracy of the models and simulations which are becoming increasingly important in the development and certification processes.
Thus flight testing under operationally representative conditions (when potentially limiting conditions can be approached in a controlled, incremental manner with salient parameters monitored via appropriate test instrumentation) remains the only safe and convincing means of proving, in the “real world”, that the man/machine combination can achieve the “performance” required.