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Old 12-15-2011, 06:37 AM
plehrke's Avatar
plehrke plehrke is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Defiance, MO
Posts: 1,913

Originally Posted by Ironflight View Post
- and every one was ready to scrub if we didn't met our pre-planned criteria for the flight.
Learned a lot from my X-45A experience at Dryden. The building was filled with VIPs that flew in to see first flight. No go was I think 10 kt winds. They were 11 kts and it was a no-go. There was even additional pressure for it to happen due to the crew work schedule. They were required to be down a day if they did not go. I learned a criteria was a criteria. They were set in a rational thought process and no short term pressure should change them.
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There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. óMARK TWAIN
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Old 12-15-2011, 09:51 AM
David Paule David Paule is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 5,299

Originally Posted by fatherson View Post
Maybe the right question is when are all of us going to be able to buy a copy of your pre-test plan? . . . on Amazon?

Seriously, Paul. I think you should be writing a book, if not now, then soon after your pending move to the quiet confines of the desert southwest. Best Practices in Experimental Aviation: lessons in mission control, by Paul F. Dye. I'll pay for my copies in advance!

I'd buy a copy. That title is perfect. Do it.

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Old 12-15-2011, 10:15 AM
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Louise Hose Louise Hose is offline
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Dayton, Nevada --- A34
Posts: 1,470
Default Also read AC90-89a

I found reading the FAA's AC90-89a useful in understanding my role and responsibilities as test pilot. Of particular note, and not stated previously in this thread, there should be TWO qualified pilots in the chase plane. I was responsible for the safe flight of the chase plane and communicating with the outside world (monitoring the pattern traffic, announcing our approach, telling other traffic our intentions). Steve did ALL the communication with Paul and inspection of the -3.

When the off-field landing happened, we were able to fly over and immediately have a precise and accurate GPS location on the site. If Paul's phone couldn't have reached a tower, we knew exactly where he was.

Lastly, if something had happened that had shaken me up so badly that I wasn't safe to fly the airplane, Steve would have taken over. We all like to think we're tough enough to suck it up and perform under the worse of circumstances, but having a more emotionally detached but highly competent second pilot in the chase plane was comforting.
Louise Hose, Editor of The Homebuilder's Portal by KITPLANES
RV3B, NX13PL "Tsamsiyu" co-builder, TMXIO-320, test platform Legacy G3X/TruTrak avionics suite
RV-6 ?Mikey? (purchased flying) ? Garmin test platform (G3X Touch, GS28 autopilot servos, GTN650 GPS/Nav/Comm,
GNC255 Nav/Com, GA240 audio panel)
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Old 12-15-2011, 10:21 AM
Bavafa Bavafa is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Sacramento, CA
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Originally Posted by David Paule View Post
Why have one? As far as I can see it offers only these benefits:

1. It's a platform for someone to take photos.

2. If the test plane has an avionics failure the chase plane can make the radio calls.

3. The chase plane can look out for traffic.

Anything else?

The reason why I'm asking is that a friend is going to make the first flight of his plane soon, and has asked me to fly chase for him. We have flown formation together numerous times and have briefed on that and other appropriate aspects of the flight.

I will not go in close enough to identify potential leaks, so that possible task isn't going to happen.

But if anyone can give me some advice, something to help make the flight safer or let me relieve the test pilot's workload, I'd be grateful.


Leak, smoke AND fire was my primary goal for having a chase plane.
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Old 12-15-2011, 10:41 AM
nauga nauga is offline
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I agree with most of the chase reasons posted so far but have a couple of other cases where I would prefer a chase - envelope expansion and stall/spin testing. A set of eyes on the outside who can give me clean-and-dry calls (as was already posted) and can look over the airplane for loose bits or damage should I hear, see, or feel anything unusual at the edges of the flight envelope. For stall/spin stuff I want someone who can tell me departure/spin direction (left/right) and attitude (inverted/upright) if I get disoriented, and someone who can give me altitude calls while I'm figuring out the recovery if things aren't going well. I'd appreciate a good firm '500 feet' call, and if I haven't recovered yet hopefully it goes to an empty cockpit

I also want someone who understands the difference between 'formation' and 'chase'. -2's first job is to stay out of my way no matter what I do, everything else is secondary. Cleared aboard for external checks, outside of those take up a very loose cruise/dispersed ('combat spread') position where you can keep an eye on me but we aren't going to smack into each other if I maneuver unexpectedly.

I have not used a chase for any RV test flights so far (plenty for others, however)...but I expect I will in the future. Back when I first flew my 4 I could not find anyone I knew and trusted within a reasonable distance (that's a reflection on *me*, not the local talent) I tailored my flights and test area accordingly - and still have not completed the spin testing.

Note that none of my reasons for *flight test safety* chase include photos.
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Old 12-15-2011, 11:20 AM
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Jamie Jamie is offline
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Location: Atlanta, GA
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My first flight was performed by Mike Stewart (aka Kahuna of Team RV fame) . I was riding right seat in the chase plane piloted by Scott Will (RV-7A). On the turn from upwind to downwind Scott and I spotted smoke coming from the cowl (leaking prop oil hose). We called it out to Mike so he could focus on oil pressure and it was indeed dropping. He killed the engine and performed a gorgeous dead stick landing at the airport.

You would have a very hard time convincing me that there is no value in a chase plane.

A chase plane is not flying in formation! It's...chasing the other plane from a safe distance.
"What kind of man would live where there is no daring? I don't believe in taking foolish chances but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all." - Charles A. Lindbergh
Jamie | RV-7A First Flight: 7/27/2007 (Sold)
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:59 PM
Wayne Gillispie Wayne Gillispie is offline
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Location: USA
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Provide the chase plane copilot and ground crew with binoculars. Then chase does not have to get so close. I had one and would do it again. First flight- one hour. Never got out of glide range of an airport for first 10 hours.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
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Old 12-18-2011, 04:57 PM
David Paule David Paule is offline
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Default Post-Chase Lessons Learned (Long)

First, I want to thank the people who contributed to this discussion. I learned a lot that I was able to apply today.

I flew chase today for the first flight of a homebuilt. We flew from a private airpark. Here's what I learned, and my apologies for the length.

1. It's a maximum workload job. It takes 100% of your effort and don't kid yourself about that. If the pilot skills are not up to the task, don't do it. Having a co-pilot available to check traffic and and talk about things is a very good plan. The co-pilot should not be a photographer or member of the family of the test pilot. Instead you want a capable, disinterested and competent pilot. My neighbor, Dallice Tylee, did well.

2. For communications between the test aircraft and the chase aircraft, the names "Test" and "Chase" are better than the N numbers.

3. Approaching the pattern near the end of the flight, in this case an uncontrolled field, it's advisable for the chase plane to request that other aircraft remain clear of the pattern until the test aircraft is clear of the runway. I didn't do that, and the test aircraft had to hold while a poorly organized flight of three tried to get in before us. My bad.

4. It's extremely difficult to maintain visual contact with a small unpainted metal aircraft against ground clutter, especially when there's some snow. The test aircraft didn't have strobes, and they would have helped. Chase can sometimes help by providing some relative movement compared to the test aircraft, by descending or climbing relative to them - keeping clear at all times.

5. It's not a formation flight. We had briefed that the only time I'd come in close to the test aircraft was at the top of the initial climb to check for leaks, if they called it, and not otherwise. He didn't call and I stayed reasonably far out. We agreed that I would never be in a blocking position with him. The test airplane could maneuver at will without bothering to check my position since I would always remain clear. And sometimes I had to maneuver aggressively to remain clear.

6. To minimize distractions, we agreed that I wouldn't talk on the radio much. He'd talk, I'd listen. We both had copies of the test plan and agreed that unless something of importance was going on, he wouldn't call. Silence means that the test plane was good and continuing with the plan. We knew that if he had a problem, I'd know it anyway by his body language - he'd be heading to the field.

7. We briefed before the flight. This is essential. Part was going over the test plan in the weeks beforehand, part by emailing back and forth about procedures, and part at the plane on the ground before starting up. Gotta have a plan and everyone has to know what it is. My co-pilot was also familiar with the plan.

8. The chase pilot has to be absolutely familiar with stick and rudder flying at all points in the envelope. In our case, the test plane had excellent acceleration but test-limited the top speed. It's projected climb rate was anticipated to be greater than the chase plane's, but in the event the chase could keep up in the climb with no difficulty. The test aircraft had a superior low-speed capability which I had to work around to maintain a suitable position. I think that test could descend faster than the chase plane, too, and we nearly lost track of him at one point because of that. The chase plane had more momentum than the test plane and that was simply something I had to manage.

These points of similarity and difference aren't going to be necessarily as briefed, but a competent pilot should be able to work with them. Your attention will be focused primarily out of the plane - have your co-pilot checking the engine gauges if you wish - and you might find yourself at virtually any throttle, flap or trim position.

I think that reasonably compatible aircraft are necessary. If the expected performance envelopes are too different, it's not going to work.

9. We briefed that I'd orbit the field in the pattern and that he'd start his take-off while I was on a long final at pattern altitude. He had rising CHT and elected to launch while I was on downwind. We'd briefed for this possibility and I turned at midfield to follow. One thing worth mentioning that worked well here and we felt was safe (we set it up for safety) was that while chasing I wouldn't go below pattern altitude. No buzz job to salute the test plane. Keep it safe, and in the pattern, call the positions.

Again, thanks to all of you, and the professional approach of the test pilot, all went well. It was a safe event.


Last edited by David Paule : 12-20-2011 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 12-19-2011, 10:03 AM
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Ironflight Ironflight is offline
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Great report Dave (IMHO). You had some lessons learned that were great to share, and that didn't affect safety because you planned n advance. As you pointed out, "Chase" is no more something you can do at the spur of the moment, for the first time, any more than aerobatics, instrument flying, or test flying. it is a skill and discipline unto itself.

Paul F. Dye
Editor at Large - KITPLANES Magazine
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:11 AM
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AX-O AX-O is offline
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Sir, thanks for the lessons learned. They are almost identical to those learned in professional flight testing.
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The information that I post is just that; information and my own personal experiences. You need to weigh out the pros and cons and make up your own mind/decisions. The pictures posted may not show the final stage or configuration. Build at your own risk. Further more, these are my opinions and not those of Van's Aircraft.
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