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SportAir Workshop Flight Test Course

By Ed Wischmeyer, EAA 18879

Enter Rob Erdos, chief test pilot of the National Research Council Institute for Aerospace Research in Ottawa, Ontario, and graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. Extremely knowledgeable, easy to listen to, and a natural teacher, Erdos steered a dozen students through the first pass of a course on “flight testing your homebuilt” – most were about to fly, some had flown, and most were local to Calgary with the exception of a magazine writer from Iowa.

The two days at the EAA SportAir Workshop were focused, of course, as there was a lot of material to cover, but a key element was that every topic had a “why do I care” component to it. There was no information tossed out there leaving it to you to decide whether it was relevant or not.

Flight Test class

Flight testing involves analysis of data, and that means math, of course. Erdos was obviously at home with the material – that is his day job, after all – yet the math was handled very well for this audience. Equations were presented, but the discussion was limited to which factors cause certain effects. Included on the course CD was a spreadsheet to do all that dirty math, and the individual pages on the spreadsheets had sample data to show how things were supposed to work. Way cool.

Another nice feature of the course was that Erdos told how to test every condition – the preparations for performing the individual flight test, the technique for performing it, and of course, the aforementioned spreadsheet for data reduction. Sample test cards, filled out with sample data, made it all clear.

The last part of the flight test is creating an owner’s manual. In my opinion, some of this is pro forma, like including an airplane three-view. But some of it will be pure gold, such as a wiring diagram and information on all the equipment installed in the airplane in case you have to replace it at some point: manufacturer, model number, serial number, and something I hadn’t considered, contact information on where you bought it. Checklists, performance numbers, and copies of the flight test cards and the resulting graphs – why can’t that part of the project be just as satisfying as learning to rivet or filing parts to fit perfectly?

And of course, the most fun part of the course was the war stories, like why doing a go-around in a Lysander requires 45 seconds to transition from approach to go-around, or how to land an Me-109 without flipping over in it – Erdos has flown an Me-109E with the original Daimler-Benz engine twice.

Feedback from the first bunch of students was amazing; three-quarters of the students rated the course and the workbook as excellent, and I was in that group. Erdos is hoping to offer the course in the future, and when you see it listed, you should tell your friends. Or better yet, sponsor the course at your site – you’ll be glad you did.

For more information about EAA SportAir Workshops, visit www.SportAir.org.

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