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Chapter 8 – PREPARATION OF THE FLIGHT TEST PLAN

Ronald J. Harney
Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division
Patuxent River, MD 20670-5304
USA

8.0 INTRODUCTION
Test plans are written for all aspects of airplane testing such as airframe structural tests, flying qualities
and performance tests, avionics tests, simulator validation, systems software tests, and engine tests. It is a
written document of the duties and responsibilities of those concerned with planning and conducting
assigned projects. Thorough and timely reviews of the test plan can aid in ensuring that the test is
conducted safely. All members of the test team should be familiar with the test plan prior to conducting
test flights.

The knowledge gained from previous tests similar to the tests to be conducted is always of importance.
References to previous reports, discussions with experienced test teams, and reference to any flight safety
data bases should be included.

This Section provides guidance to the Flight Test Engineer regarding the type of information that should
be included in the test plan. The following paragraphs are typical of comprehensive test plans. [8-1]

It should be noted that some organizations separate documentation of safety planning, definition of
instrumentation, etc., but all of these elements must be included in the totality of the test preparation
documentation. There are some significant differences in the planning tests for commercial aircraft.
Some of these differences are noted in paragraph 8.3.

8.1 OBJECTIVES OF THE TEST PLAN


The test plan gives project personnel a systematic approach to the effective, efficient, and safe conduct of
the test program. The test plan defines the purpose of the test, the scope of the test, the test methods used,
the risks involved with the test, and the risk reduction techniques to be used. (Refer to Section 10 for
information on the safety aspects). In this light, it is also a document in which management can obtain a
clear and concise description of the objectives of the test and the risks involved in obtaining these
objectives. The test plan also provides a means by which management can ensure that adequate planning
and preparation have been done, to verify that the test is within the charter or capabilities of the
organization, and to ensure that the correct personnel are being used.

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8.2 CONTENTS OF THE TEST PLAN

8.2.1 Background
This portion of the test plan introduces the project to the reader. It should include any pertinent
information regarding the origin of the requirements for the test program. Reference should also be made
as to who is requesting the tests and why. Include previously related tests, operational problems, or any
other material which may pertain to the origin of the tests. Generally, this section will include a
description of the test article including comments as to how well it represents the article to be deployed for
operational service.

8.2.2 Purpose of the Tests


This section provides a clear and concise statement as to the overall purpose of the tests.

The test plan first must define the objectives of the test program so that the test team and management
have a clear understanding as to why the tests are being conducted. Background material can be included
to provide the team with a historical perspective into the program. Test objectives can include the
following:
• Develop the system and subsystem
• Determine Compliance with Specified Goals: The most significant portion of flight tests is spent
ensuring compliance with the goals specified of the airplane design. The test program should
provide essential information for assessment of acquisition risk and for decision making.
• Determine Mission Suitability: The airplane must also be evaluated in the mission environment
for which it was designed. Measures of effectiveness in the planned operational scenarios should
be evaluated and presented.
• Document Enhancing Characteristics: The test program should allow the project engineer to
determine the enhancing characteristics of the system. These would be things such as
improvements over original systems or the ability of the system to drastically exceed the
minimum requirements.
• Document Deficiencies: The test program should provide the project engineer the means to
adequately determine the deficiencies of the system. The deficiencies of the system being tested
can be identified as shortcomings of the equipment or system that adversely affect airworthiness
of the aircraft, the ability of the aircraft to accomplish its mission, the effectiveness of the crew as
an essential subsystem, the safety of the crew or the integrity of an essential subsystem, the ability
of the system to meet the contract specifications, and maintainability and reliability of the system.

8.2.3 Scope of Tests


Once the objectives are stated the test plan must next define what the test team is going to do. The scope
of tests section defines the exact test program that will be required to satisfy the objectives of the test.
Typically found in the scope of tests paragraphs are a definition of the tests, the conditions under which
the test will be conducted, the test envelope, test aircraft loadings, test aircraft configurations, and a
definition of the standards under which the test results will be evaluated.

8.2.3.1 Tests and Test Conditions. A summary of the testing is presented in this section. Include the
number of phases, tasks/subtasks, number of flights, and the number of flight and ground test hours
required to accomplish the tests. Items such as weather, runway conditions (wet or dry), external loadings
and aircraft configuration (gear up or down, flaps up or down, one or more engines inoperative, etc.)

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should be included. Weather requirements for one block of test points may be very stringent such as high
angle-of-attack tests or performance tests. Other blocks of test points may require less stringent weather
conditions such as an Inertial Navigation System test. Also specify both terminal (field) weather
requirements and operating area weather requirements.

A detailed matrix that includes the specific tests is included in the body of the test plan or referenced as an
appendix to the test plan. The matrix should include each specific test to be conducted and include as a
minimum the task title, specific test objective, loading, configuration, airspeed, and altitude. Other items
that can be included are applicable specification paragraphs, data required, time to conduct test, and
handling qualities task and tolerances. A typical matrix is presented in Table 8-I. The test matrix is also
the base from which one builds the data cards.

Table 8-I Test Matrix

8.2.3.2 Test Envelope. In this portion state the flight envelope or test limits for the conduct of tests and
the source of the limits. Limits typically can include structural limits, performance airplane limits, and
system operating limits. Special note should be made of areas that differ from the usual limits defined in
the flight or operator's manual. A typical table for the test envelope is presented in Table 8-II.

Table 8-II Test Envelope

8.2.3.3 Flight Clearance. A flight clearance is sometimes required if the governing agency responsible
for determining aircraft limits is not the testing agency. The flight clearance is a formal document
authorizing the testing agency to conduct envelope expansion tests, carry or release non-standard stores, or
fly with aircraft structural, flight control, or electrical/mechanical system modifications. If a flight
clearance is required, it should be stated in this section. If possible include the flight clearance as an
appendix to the test plan. Include the issuing agency, the date the flight clearance is expected to be issued,
and when the flight clearance will expire.

8.2.3.4 Test Loadings. This is usually a table of the various external store loadings to be tested.
Variables such as gross weight, center of gravity (cg) position, drag index, and external store loading,
which may have a significant effect on the tests being conducted, should be included. A typical table of
test loadings is presented in Table 8-III. Any asymmetric loading should also be denoted.

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Table 8-III Test Loadings

8.2.3.5 Test Configurations. The airplane test configurations should be listed and described. Variables
such as configuration, landing gear position, flap position, speedbrake position and thrust, should be
included. A typical table is presented in Table 8-IV.

Table 8-IV Test Configurations

8.2.3.6 Test Standards. The test standards portion is of extreme importance as the standards ultimately
determine the necessary test maneuvers, tolerances, and data requirements. The test standards to be used
should be stated in terms of mission, applicable specifications, demonstration criteria, guarantees, etc.

8.2.4 Method of Tests


Most importantly, the test plan must define how the test will be performed. Test methods and procedures,
airplane's instrumentation, data analysis, and use of check lists should be discussed.

8.2.4.1 Test Methods and Procedures. Test methods, tactics to be used, environment for tests, and
equipment required for the test program should be thoroughly described. Include set procedures and
buildups in the test methods. Accepted test manuals may be referenced for methods and procedures. Any
non-standard tests, however, cannot be referenced and must be described in detail. Reference to operator's
manuals, tactics manuals, and approved standard operating procedures is also appropriate. Where
applicable, the test matrix can be referenced.

8.2.4.2 Instrumentation and Data Processing. Test instrumentation should be outlined to include the
type of instrumentation required and what recording methods will be used. The list should include
external instrumentation requirements such as cameras, signal sources, radar and theodolite ranges, laser
trackers, telemetry processing facilities, etc. A detailed listing of parameters to be measured, the
measurement characteristics, and what parameters will be critical for safety of flight should also be listed.
(See also Sections 6 and 10.) A typical table is presented in Table 8-V. Data processing support should
be stated in terms of support requirements, who will do the processing and analysis and whether or not
special software applicable programs are necessary. The required turn-around times for the various data
products should be specified. (See Section 7.)

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Table 8-V Instrumentation Requirements

8.2.4.3 Data Analysis. Data analysis techniques should be discussed. Techniques could include trend
analysis, comparison with previous tests, statistical analysis, etc.

8.2.4.4 Support Requirements. Support requirements should be listed to cover the following:
• Any specialized support laboratories or shops to include metal and machine shops, photography
services, or instrumentation laboratories.
• Facilities that require special scheduling such as restricted or operating areas, target tracking
ranges, surface or airborne targets, other test facilities, satellite time, and military services.
• Special aircraft requirements such as chase, target, electronic warfare, formation lead, or tanker.
• Special engineering or computer laboratory support.
• Estimated time frame in which the resources/assistance will be required.

8.2.5 Determine Exit Criteria


The test plan takes the system specifications and requirements and evolves them into tangible test limits or
exit criteria that need to be met or exceeded. (Note: Exit criteria, for US military systems, are typically
defined as the test objectives that have to be met to proceed from technical tests to operational tests). By
passing this exit criteria, the test team has verified that the system has met the minimum requirements.
The test method and procedures must be established to ensure that the team can test to the exit criteria.
For military applications, the exit criteria are typically defined in a Test and Evaluation Master Plan to
meet the requirements stated in an Operational Requirements Document.

8.2.6 Management
The management section should cover all items that will be of concern to test management. Items should
be included, or excluded, per home base procedures.

8.2.6.1 Funding and Resource Requirements. Funds allotted, their source, and expiration date should
be described. The overall manpower and cost estimate should be included as well as any comment as to
the adequacy of funds provided. Detailed cost estimates showing labor, material, contract, computer,
special support, travel, and flight hour costs may be included.

Test planning must define the required funding level as well as test personnel, flight crew, aircraft, and
other test support asset requirements (i.e., special resources such as telemetry ground stations, tracking
ranges, etc.). The required resources may be directly impacted by the time scale of the test program, i.e.,
if the time frame for tests is severely limited by an operational requirement, additional aircraft and the
associated maintenance and test resources may have to be allocated.

8.2.6.2 Schedule and Milestones. A schedule/milestone chart showing the project milestones should be
presented in this section or as an appendix. Milestones should include contract deadlines, instrumentation
dates, test dates, report dates, and project completion. This chart can also be used as a progress chart by
plotting actual progress and achieved milestones. Additionally, schedule drivers may also be shown such
as test range availability or aircraft availability (test or support), or ship at-sea dates for shipboard testing.

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8.2.6.3 Personnel Assignment. List the personnel assigned to the program along with their project
function, organizational codes, and telephone numbers. (See Section 4.)

8.2.6.4 Reports. The final product of the test program is the test report. Describe how the test results
will be reported, the frequency of interim reports (if required for long duration test programs), and who
will receive the reports. The test plan often specifies the types of reports to be prepared and to whom the
reports will be distributed. (See Sections 28 and 29.)

8.2.7 Safety Plan


As all testing assumes some risk, particular attention must be paid to first identify the risks, then show
how the risks are minimized. (See Section 10.) Management must be able to ascertain that safety is given
utmost attention and determine if the objectives of the test are worth the assumed risks.

The most important function of the safety plan is a comprehensive evaluation of the hazards involved in
the test and a detailed presentation of the procedures and precautions that will be used to minimize the risk
inherent in flight test. Of most importance is the hazard analysis which should include all of the foreseen
hazards that could be encountered. A general outline for safety planning is presented in the following
paragraphs.

8.2.7.1 Special Precautions. The hazard analysis is a detailed evaluation of the problem areas that may
be encountered in the testing process. Test hazards may include those expected in the particular flight
region or those caused by new or modified equipment in the airplane. (See Section 10.) The object of the
hazard analysis is to first identify hazards that could occur, identify the cause of the hazard, determine the
probability of that hazard occurring, assess the risk should the hazard be encountered, and establish
precautionary measures to eliminate or reduce the hazard. An example of a flight profile hazard analysis
is shown in Table 8-VI. An example of a project equipment hazard analysis is shown in Table 8-VII.

Table 8-VI Hazard Analysis - Flight Profile

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Table 8-VII Hazard Analysis - Project Equipment

8.2.7.2 High Risk/Workload Data Points. High risk/workload data points should be identified and
procedures for safely accomplishing the task should be written.

8.2.7.3 Checklists. The application and use of checklists during flight tests helps eliminate the errors that
can be made in an intense high workload flight test environment. These checklists should be developed
and presented in the test plan.

8.2.7.4 Data Management. The data management techniques to ensure safety should be specifically
addressed so that there is a clear understanding of what the critical safety of flight instrumentation
parameters are, who will be monitoring these parameters, and what special techniques will be used such as
trend analysis for structural testing or gain and phase margin computation for flight controls tests. A clear
understanding must be presented as to whom, or what functional tile, can authorize continuing hazardous
flights or call for a test halt. Any special techniques to manipulate the data or use trend analysis should be
identified in this section.

8.2.7.5 Miscellaneous Items. The following items also need to be addressed and documented during the
test planning process:
• Aircraft Downing Discrepancies
• Required Ground Checks for Project Equipment.
• Special Maintenance or Handling Procedures
• Locally Manufactured Parts
• Aircraft Discrepancy Review Procedures
• Go-No Go Criteria
• Pre-flight and Postflight Briefings. (See Section 28.)

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8.2.8 Operational Security Considerations


Although most testing of sensitive classified nature is conducted with encrypted data, care should also be
taken in the planning and conduct of any project in which important information can be transmitted in one
form or another. Test plans with detailed test matrices, test schedules showing type of support, and radio
communication discussions with the project team can be used by competitive or non-friendly parties to
obtain information as to the capabilities and faults of the test aircraft. The overall security classification of
the project as well as the classification of data and test results should be stated. If any components are
classified, define the procedures established for storing, utilizing, and/or handling. If data are classified,
state how it will be protected. If classified equipment or ordnance is to be delivered to or shipped from the
organization, define the arrangements and procedures to be followed. Relevant Operational Security
guides/instructions should be followed.

8.3 TESTING OF CIVIL AIRCRAFT


Any testing with the objective of obtaining a civilian Certificate of Airworthiness must be based upon the
rules and regulations set forth in the JAR/FAR regulatory framework. [8-2, 8-3] The first action is to
establish a Certification Base. This base is the agreement between the authorities and the manufacturer in
which the applicable Amendments for the new aircraft design are spelled out.

Once this agreement has been reached the pertinent requirements from the different JAR/FARs are
translated into a Compliance Matrix. This matrix shows how the manufacturer will comply with every
article of the certification base. Compliance can be based upon math models, similarity with existing
certified products, and use of simulators, scale models, full-size mock-ups, and complete aircraft in ground
or flight tests. The contents of the matrix will be discussed with the authorities to agree how each item in
the matrix will be satisfied. Those items requiring flight tests will them singled out and then appropriate
test plans will be prepared.

In general, the test plans will follow the outlines noted above with the notable exception that the civil test
maneuvers are spelled out in an "Acceptable Means of Compliance" document prepared by the authorities.
It is possible to deviate from the compliance document but to do so the manufacturer must convince the
authorities that his approach will lead to at least the equivalent level of safety.

Once the manufacturer has determined that the aircraft meets the certification requirements, the
certification authorities will be notified and will send their test crew(s). These test crews will then fly the
aircraft using the requirements of the JAR/FAR. If this crew accepts the manufacturer's claim of
compliance the Certificate of Compliance can be obtained.

8.4 CONCLUDING REMARKS


It is very important that a comprehensive test plan be prepared and coordinated with appropriate
authorities well in advance of any planned testing. This test plan and the checking/coordinating process
will then ensure that proper test planning has been accomplished and that the potential test crew
understands what is to be done, how it is to be done, the potential hazards that exist, and the necessary
steps and procedures to be taken to alleviate the test hazards. However, the test plan is a living document -
it must be utilized on a daily basis and it must be updated and re-coordinated as test progress dictates.

A well prepared test plan that is utilized on a continuing basis is a must for a safe and efficient test
program.

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8.5 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Mr. J. Nicolaes, Fokker Aircraft Company, contributed information regarding test planning for civil
aircraft.

8.6 REFERENCES
[8-1] US Navy, Flight Test Engineering Group Instruction (FTEGINST) 3960.1, "Preparation, Review,
and Implementation of Project Test Plans", 14 July 1992.
[8-2] US Government Publications
• Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Chapter 1, Part 25 (for large aircraft)
• Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Advisory Circulars

[8-3] Joint Aviation Requirements, Joint Aviation Authorities.

8.7 BIBLIOGRAPHY
DOD 5000.2, "Defense Acquisition Management Policies and Procedures," 23 February 1991.

US Navy Test Pilot School (USNTPS) FTM-104, "Fixed Wing Performance Test Manual", July 1977.

USNTPS FTM-103, "Fixed Wing Stability and Control Manual", 1 Jan 1975.

US Air Force Test Pilot School (USAFTPS) Volume I, "Aircraft Performance".

USAFTPS Volume II, "Flying Qualities".

Twisk, J. van, "The Fokker 50 and 100 Flight Test Program", Proceedings of the 18th Symposium of the
Society of Flight Test Engineers, Amsterdam, 1987.

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