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Airworthiness certificate

Aircraft certification processes for experimental configuration

The field of experimental flights is varied and wide. Many times, different systems are installed on top of planes. Some of these installations cause modifications in the regular aircraft configuration as it was defined and planned by the manufacturer. These modifications can cause a deviation from the standard faring of the plane, such as with the installation of radar systems on the plane’s nose, of payloads on the underside of the plane, or systems inside the plane’s fuselage that weigh more than the average passenger seat or that deviate from standard G-Force as it is known for the regular aircraft configuration.

These modifications and deviations usually demand professional and legal consideration by the regulator and the technical and operational arm of the altered aircraft. The end game of these factors in their consideration of the modifications is to prove mastery of safety in flying the craft in view of the modifications made, and the minimization of risks caused by these modifications and by the integration between the aircraft and the newly-installed system.

For example, installing a radar system on the nose of the plane which protrudes above the nose creates the need to reassess the aerodynamics and wind regime around the installed radar system.

In addition, the system may cause a visual hindrance to the pilot, and consequently special consideration is required of the piloting of the craft, especially during takeoff and landing.

Another element which may be affected by installing such a system is the plane’s navigation and avionics equipment, because of an electro-magnetic disturbance that may be caused by the radar system while in operation. The electricity consumption by the radar system can also cause a change in the aircraft which demands consideration. Sometimes this consumption can rise above the level allowed for the craft, and by that – endanger other electricity consumers on the plane which are required for its correct and safe operation. This example and many others like it demand the professional consideration of different professional role holders in the field of test flights.

 Engineering Design Companies

There are many companies in the world specializing in the field of aviation and structural change. When it is necessary to perform an installation of a system on top of an aircraft, particularly when this requires a deviation from the aircraft’s configuration as it was specified by the manufacturer, engineering design companies can characterize, compute and test the modification caused to the aircraft and all of its aspects, and produce strength analysis which will attest to the quality of installation method of the system as it was designed by its manufacturer on the designated aircraft. Most engineering design companies have the ability to manufacture adapters which will allow the installation to comply with the aerodynamics and strength calculations as part of the process of examining the aircraft’s airworthiness in its new configuration.

 Test Pilots

Characterizing the differences between an aircraft’s original configuration and its new one with an installed system requires much knowledge and experience in the field of experimental flights.

In order to characterize the modification, a test pilot has to perform a number of professional examinations of the updated aircraft configuration. The test pilot will examine the aircraft’s performance in the original configuration, will perform a theoretical characterization of the effects of the installation on the piloting of the aircraft, will compose a written test plan which will examine the differences between the original and new configurations and will perform a test flight of the aircraft in its new configuration in order to verify the theoretical characterization of the modifications in the configuration and their impact on the piloting of the plane and the general safety in flying it.

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