The certification fleet

 - May 23, 2008, 7:30 AM

Part of the certification process of a new aircraft design is completing hundreds of tests to hit thousands of data points for both flight and ground tests. To reduce the time required to complete these tests, OEMs usually dedicate a fleet of aircraft for the certification testing.

“We will have five test aircraft by the completion of the certification program,” said Jim Dwyer, manager of flight test operations for Bombardier’s Learjet division and project test pilot for the company’s new Continental. Dwyer performed the maiden flight of the first Continental prototype on August 14. “Each of the five test aircraft will be configured the same, but each will have a different mission.”

Dwyer explained that the first three aircraft will be heavily instrumented to assess aerodynamic and handling characteristics, perform flight envelope expansion and test control, electrical, avionics and flight guidance systems. These aircraft will not contain any interior furnishings beyond those needed to carry the pilots, flight-test engineers and equipment. Pilots may fly two test flights of approximately an hour each, designed to hit up to 50 specific data points.

The fourth Continental will be completely furnished and used to test the passenger systems, including seats, in-flight entertainment and optional equipment available on the delivered jet. These test flights may be a combination of short and long flights.

“The fifth aircraft is the function and reliability aircraft,” said Dwyer. “This aircraft is also fully furnished and is flown on the same types of missions that a customer would fly.” Long cross-country flights are part of this test phase.