This column features a brief description, photo or video, and/or reference that talks about a Flight Test Technique that students at USAF Test Pilot School are currently learning. It’s an alphabetical list of FTTs together with a chronological account of what future test pilots and flight test engineers are doing right now. It will complement the previous Friday’s FTT tweets as well.

Definition: stall is “uncommanded roll or yaw motion or pitch break (nose falls)”. #FTT #flighttest Other “strange” characteristics too!

Typical stall technique is wings level decel at 1 knot per second until stall. #FTT #flighttest

Why do they do stall testing?
1. Evaluate stall susceptibility
2. Evaluate stall warning characteristics
3. Determine method for stall recovery

High AOA testing may involve tufts, trailing cones, smoke, or oil to visualize airflow.

Some aircraft have a pitch or AOA limiter, as this F-16 video animation shows.

#Video: small, piston aircraft stall characteristics known as bucking. #FTT #flighttest

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This post summarizes references and #FTT tweets from the previous Friday. What is #FTT Friday?

#FTT Friday
Each Friday, @FlightTestFact will deliver examples, definitions, and explanations of flight test techniques for the entire day. You can view these tweets by searching for #FTT and #flighttest as depicted below. You can also click on the picture below to be taken to the twitter search results. What FTT would you like to know more about?


For more information, you can read the post What is an FTT? or check out the alphabetical index or the FTT blog category for several examples, test cards, and videos of FTTs.

#Aeroindia starts today — here’s a very brief intro at the flight test sliver of the amazing aerospace industry thriving in India. Check out the aeroindia website too.

This week’s photos take another look at aircraft from the perspective of various engineers introduced last time.

HAL Tejas
The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas is the primary fast jet trainer aircraft at the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment, home of the Indian Air Force Test Pilot School.

Aerodynamicists will immediately notice the absence of a horizontal tail surface.

Top view HAL Tejas
A top view of the aircraft reveals a unique delta wing design with two sweep angles. Inlets below the wing will attract the attention of the propulsion engineers. And systems/avionics types will notice many antennae for sensors.

The test pilot school is largely supported by HAL, India’s leading aerospace R&D organization.

To read more about the Indian Air Force check out these links:
1. Interview with an Indian Test Pilot about TPS

2. Overview of the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (ASTE)

3. Wikipedia article

We live in an age of GPS devices, and they can be a fantastic aid. However, a map is also an immensely powerful tool, and I think that its longevity proves its value. On the other hand, a GPS tells you which direction to go, and it usually does not give you many (or any) alternatives. Nor does it give you information to weigh alternative choices.

Maps give us options.

And they give us the information you need to weigh those alternatives. It turns out that alternatives are important. In his wildly popular best seller, EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey simply states:

A powerful element of good decision making is to have lots and lots of options.

ATOMs are basic building blocks that you can use to build solutions in many situations, like the three presented here.

Here are 3 places you can use a map to create options and collect information: 1) Planning your trip, 2) Making a detour, and 3) Finding your way (when you are lost).

1. Planning the Trip
Have these thoughts gone through your mind when planning a road trip: What’s the shortest distance? What route gives the shortest duration? Is road A susceptible to more traffic than road B?

Before the trip, maps are useful for strategic planning. What if you apply these same kinds of questions to your project or process–will they help you prepare?

Right-Arrow-Detour-Sign-X-M4-9R2. Making a Detour
Have you ever come across one of these dreaded orange signs? My fear has always been that the detour will be vey poorly marked.  These days the GPS units are getting a bit smarter about handling detours, but none compare to my ability to use a map when things get out of hand.

I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t had to make at least one detour during the execution of their plan. Is your plan ready?

3. Finding your Way (when you are lost)
What if you miss your exit? What if that detour leads you astray? Maps are good for helping us figure out where we are.

There’s an elementary process for all three of these steps–it’s the same checklist applied to each situation. It doesn’t require a GPS solution, a complicated algorithm, or an updated database.

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Where Do We Go From Here

How do we find our way then, when we are exploring the unknown, blazing a trail into uncharted territory? How do we apply elementary statistical principles to transform uncertainty into decisive action? What is to prevent us from making a preposterous application of ATOMs when we deal with very complex situations, those in which our intuition fails?

These questions are not much different from those faced by Chuck Yeager before he ever broke the sound barrier or Neil Armstrong as he took that first step on the moon. Neither of these men, nor anyone around them–with hundreds or thousands of highly educated, very scientific people on these teams–knew what to expect. Or did they…?

ATOMs is a monthly column that introduces analytical tools of mathematics and statistics and illustrates their application. To read more about ATOMs, you can read Where Do We Go From Here, or view the online workbook here.

Previous: It’s not About the Tools — ATOMs #13-5 | Next: How are Maps like Analytical Tools — ATOMs #13-6

Yesterday, February 1, 2013, marked ten years since the space shuttle Columbia was lost.  

The normal Friday #FTT posts were replaced with memorial content in honor of Columbia and her crew.

Space Shuttle Columbia was lost on 1 Feb 2003. #Columbia #remember

3 Types of Flight Test – Airplanes by Design: Space Shuttle http://ow.ly/hk0ZB #remember #Columbia

VIDEO: Space shuttle landing — PIO. #remember #Columbia

Columbia memorial service at @NASAAmes today http://ow.ly/hk0uI #remember #Columbia.

Rick Husband, USAFTPS graduate, was the shuttle Columbia commander: His biography. #remember #Columbia

VIDEO: Flight test of the Space Shuttle Enterprise #remember #Columbia

Aircraft Systems Engineering courseware from MIT features Space Shuttle  #remember #Columbia.

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This post summarizes references and #FTT tweets from the previous Friday. What is #FTT Friday?

#FTT Friday
Each Friday, @FlightTestFact will deliver examples, definitions, and explanations of flight test techniques for the entire day. You can view these tweets by searching for #FTT and #flighttest as depicted below. You can also click on the picture below to be taken to the twitter search results. What FTT would you like to know more about?


For more information, you can read the post What is an FTT? or check out the alphabetical index or the FTT blog category for several examples, test cards, and videos of FTTs.

DavidYou and I could use Michelangelo’s chisel and not come up with anything close to his spectacular work, the famous sculpture of David. It’s not about the tools. It’s about the person using the tools.

ATOMs need leaders. Without leadership, ATOMs are just chisels and hammers in a tool chest.

We left off last time preparing for the airdrop of the 70,000 lb Ares, and we highlighted three egregious shortcomings of the models & simulation available to us.

At the outset, our goal was to characterize the pitch change, the dynamic response, of the aircraft during extraction of an airdrop load.  But we couldn’t do that based on the previously described limitations.

I will tell you the punchline–we used the sample max (not averages or standard deviations) to evaluate the aircraft response. That non-parametric statistic answers the following question: “what is the largest expected pitch change and pitch rate?”

It took expert knowledge of the problem, of the way we did airdrop and handled emergencies, to reframe the problem and to realize that the solution was reasonable. Hired guns don’t have that knowledge.

Models spit out numbers. Leaders apply those numbers to the situation!

You are in the trenches, and you have that knowledge, which is why you need to arm yourself with ATOMs. You are the leader. It’s your vision–if it’s surrounded by uncertainty, an outsider’s view will be out of focus.

This example is shared in greater detail in the book, Where Do We Go from Here: Analytical Tools to Help Leaders Navigate Uncertainty and Risk. I think it will help you greatly, and so I encourage you to buy it.  Amazon has a money back guarantee as well.

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Previous: 3 Limitations of Models & Simulation | Next: 3 Places You can Use a Map

Where Do We Go From Here

How do we find our way then, when we are exploring the unknown, blazing a trail into uncharted territory? How do we apply elementary statistical principles to transform uncertainty into decisive action? What is to prevent us from making a preposterous application of ATOMs when we deal with very complex situations, those in which our intuition fails?

These questions are not much different from those faced by Chuck Yeager before he ever broke the sound barrier or Neil Armstrong as he took that first step on the moon. Neither of these men, nor anyone around them–with hundreds or thousands of highly educated, very scientific people on these teams–knew what to expect. Or did they…?

ATOMs is a monthly column that introduces analytical tools of mathematics and statistics and illustrates their application. To read more about ATOMs, you can read Where Do We Go From Here, or view the online workbook here.

I’ve never raised a ten year old girl before, but I’ve just jumped in to the deep end.

When I wrote this post last month, Emily had just turned ten, the big 1-0. Double digits is a major milestone for her and for us, her parents.

As I already stated, I don’t know how to raise a ten year old girl–because I’ve never done it. There’s a lot of uncertainty about the way ahead, the path forward. But if you have any notion of what vision is, you probably realize that some degree of uncertainty always accompanies vision.

Sometimes uncertainty looks like too many options.
There are million books about parenting, about girls, about pop psychology. There are websites, blogs, podcasts, and tweets about the subject. There are even resources that exist solely to motivate me, to get me pumped up enough to tackle the job. You could get lost, literally, in a bookstore that contained all this content.

Sometimes uncertainty is just the opposite.
The absence of any alternative defines some uncertain scenarios–like being in the middle of a forest with no path on any side. This situation might lead us to ask:  Where do we go from here?

I have a strategy for dealing with both–a parenting technique I’ve adapted from my aviation toolkit.

I have three specific questions that I ask myself, constantly, to make sure we don’t get lost in the wilderness.

1) Where are we going?
2) Where are we now?
3) What are the waypoints?

I’ve discussed these questions before, but I want to highlight the characteristics of uncertainty in this particular application.

1. Where are we going?
What does the destination look like? We’ve never been there. How far away is the finish line? We’ve never made this trip before.

I’ve shared with Emily–with each member of our family–what I think winning looks like and where I think we ought to end up on this journey. I’ve painted a mental image of the vision I have for her life.

Even though we’ve never been there, we know what it looks like. The details might be blurry, but that’s expected–you can’t see the leaves on the trees on Pike’s Peak, from NC, for example.

2. Where are we now?
That’s a hard question to answer sometimes. It forces me to sharpen my powers of observation, to tune all of my senses. Am I listening? Seeing? Do I smell trouble? (You get the idea.) These are all questions that help me determine where we are. Two points make a straight line, but in this journey, I don’t think a straight line is going to get us there.  We’ll set off in that general direction, but we might encounter valleys, roadblocks, and mountains along the way. I’m not sure what we will face, but knowing where we are going and where we are will always help us answer the question “are we on course?”

3. What are the waypoints?
How we mark the waypoints varies. Sometimes its a visible landmark. Other times, it might be more like dead reckoning–maintain a particular heading 255 for an indiscriminate amount of time. If we stick to the plan, and the plan was crafted carefully, then we have to trust that it will work out–we have to keep pressing forward on that heading.

There’s a lot of unknowns in the days, months, and years ahead. That’s the point of this post–to remind you that we can still find our way when we’ve never been there, when we’re uncertain of what lies on our path, and when there’s no landmarks on parts of the journey to mark our progress.

Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.

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You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs. Some people may not want the technical content that appears elsewhere on this website–if you only want to follow these more personal updates, I set up a special subscription for that option here: by Email or RSS.

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Perhaps you’ve been inspired by the kind of things that flight test engineers and experimental test pilots do. But for whatever reason, you can’t do that job or don’t want to. If that’s the case, here are 10 closely related fields of work in aerospace.

1. Photography
photographer astronaut

2. Art
You could paint an amazing design on the world’s newest aircraft, for example. Or you could design paint that is resistant to the heat of re-entry for spacecraft.

3. Off-road Driving
NASA Photo

4. Fashion
Spacesuit design lets you create fashion that is out of this world.

5. Music
Audio engineering is a hot field in aerospace–from the way we interact with the airplane or spacecraft to the way we hear things through our headsets.

6. Cooking
We need a replacement for Tang…and airline food. Serve up a culinary masterpiece among the stars (i.e., in space).

7. Water Sports
Water survival and rescue swimming and the boats used in both are just a few examples.
NASA Photo

8. Camping
Whether you are learning or teaching, survival training is a growing field, and not just for astronauts.
NASA Photo

9. Writing
There are a hundred different ways to engage as a writer in aerospace–from tech writer to journalist and everything in between. You can write the next chapter in a story that’s stranger than fiction.

10. Fixing
Airplane mechanics work on the ground and in the air as flying crew chiefs. They are in extremely high demand.

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Don’t just imagine your dreams–explore them, because we need you. The aerospace industry needs innovators. The flight test community is looking for the next Neil Armstrong, and that’s what this column is about, helping you take that next small step.

Thanks for reading Launch Your Flight Test Career #19. Send a message to @FlightTestFact on Twitter to ask questions about launching your flight test career.

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