Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My first flight test mission

In 1991 I got my qualification as a project engineer. This job was a very big challenge. I had been training for six years to do it. My first mission was to conduct a flight test to solve the early buffet problem of a jet trainer.

There were ten out of sixty jet trainers which encountered early buffet problems. These ten jet trainers were prototypes. For some unknown reason, they tended to buffet earlier than other normal jet trainers when landing. Buffet is caused by air stream separation. Pilots would feel shaking on the stick when the jet trainer flies in a low speed approaching the runway. No pilot likes this!

The mission was an exciting event for me. It was my first time to handle such a complex problem - to coordinate so many experts, and to conduct a flight test. I felt excited, but at the same time nervous because a test pilot had been killed in a flight test just a month before. I didn’t want such a tragedy happening again in my flight test.

Before the flight test, we had designed a small delta wing to install on the leading edge of the wing root of the jet trainer. Many ground tests had been conducted on this new design to verify its safety. There were still risks in real flight. I hecked every detail before the jet trainer took off.

When the jet trainer was in the air and began the flight test, everything seemed to go as expected. We all felt excited. We had done it successfully. Finally the jet trainer landed on the runway safely.

After the first flight test mission, I conducted many flight test missions during the next six years without losing a pilot or a jet. I am very happy about that.

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