Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Test Flight

After the most thorough preflight I have ever seen, heard, or experienced, complete with a running commentary on what could go wrong with the airplane at that part, we went back to the break room, and combed carefully through the paperwork until every single item, every AD, every 337, every possible requirement and notice and notification and signature was double-checked and found satisfactory.

Among other things, this means my airplane has temporary (read: sharpie on tape) placards notinng the on-off positions of the auxilliary tanks, and no smoking allowed. It's not just dotting every i and crossing every t, it's dotting every j and crossing every f as well!

Six runs for parts & peices later, we called to taxi fourty feet and reposition for petrol. Not only must everything be done by the book, to the letter, it must encompass every possible interpretation of the book and the letter, and work to the most conservative definition, while watching for every possible way for it to go not-right or actively wrong.

I am completely at peace with this - an aircraft is most likely to have things go wrong, or discovered to be not-right, on her first flight. The more aware, thoughtful, and meticulous the test pilot is, the better.

On the other hand, trying to learn everything he was saying, doing, and thinking was like trying to drink from a firehose.

The brakes need work - not that Shinn brakes are good at the best of times, but these weren't good enough to hold the airplane from rolling forward at 1800 RPM runup. More adjustment needed. We took the longest runway, for enough room to abort a flight without brakes, or to abort if something else went wrong, or to have options if engine failed to develop full power, or failed on takeoff, or shortly after...

The engine purred. It was perfectly fine, and ran without a hitch. The right wing, though, was heavy - need to adjust the wash-out. He would not stall until we have the wings balanced, but otherwise I was busy writing numbers and observations as they rushed past. 14V at 2200 RPM, cylinder head temperatures, exact amount the ball was out of center on which side, angle of bank when corrected with rudder, degrees of travel, effectiveness of control...

When we came in on a long, gentle, slow landing, I realized that my little pre-WWII trainer is exactly like other pre-WWII aircraft, and some of the WWII aircraft she trained men to fly during the war... on taxi, takeoff, and especially on landing, you can't see over her nose. This may change with cushions, it may not - but it meant that he was on the ailerons, with me ghosting, I was on the rudders, and he was on the brakes while landing a tailwheel on a runway I couldn't see...

I was completely exhausted by only an hour's flight (and after-landing runup, and post-flying checks). Smoke was gently wafting off the charred and melted lump that used to be my brain - but the test pilot wasn't done yet. A quick drive across town, and he pulled up files with every checklist he has for my make of aircraft, modified to my particular aircraft, and printed them off. It's not the actual operating manual, or the operating limits, or weight and balance - it's far, far, far more detailed.

And now I need to go memorize it before we fly tomorrow morning.

Drinking from a firehose...


  1. "Teacher, may I go home now? My brain is full."

  2. You can do it
    Yes you can!

    On the throttle
    In command!

    Without the stuff
    Inside your head!

    You'd hit a hill
    And wind up dead.


    But that wont happen
    Never could!


    You studied hard
    And got real good!

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay D!

  3. Sweet! All that hard work is starting to pay off!

  4. Wing, I'm glad you are getting the experience with the test pilot, this WILL hold you in good stead, and show you what your T-Craft can do! Hang in there!