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Dec 1999/Jan 2000

Beyond The Checkride: What Your Flight Instructor Never Taught You

Redefining Airmanship

Flying Qualities and Flight Testing of the Airplane

(available at

Table of Contents
Flagstaff, Arizona
Fantasy Fighters
Still Flying
Back To Basics
Hangar Flying
Legal Perspective
Professor A.K. Cydent
ELT Options
The $100 Hamburger
Aviation, WW II Style
News From AZ
News From CO
News From NM logo
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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172

Test Flying Your Aircraft, part 2
by Karry D. Ray

In this issue, we'll deal with the planning phase of the test flight. Rather than give you a fictitious test flight scenario, I will try to provide an easy checklist of “to do” items prior to the flight. The preflight planning stage is one of the most critical aspects of a test flight—or any flight, for that matter—because it is on the ground you should identify potential problems and preplan for emergencies.

1. Check the weather.
2. Find out if emergency response is available.
3. Identify the location of the test flight area.
4. Verify that the aircraft has been approved for a return to service.
5. Study the Aircraft Flight Manual/Pilot Operating Handbook (AFM/POH).
6. Discuss the flight with the A & P who repaired/identified the area requiring the test flight. Go over what you are testing for, and discuss when to call off the flight.
7. List the test points on a sheet of paper.
8. Prepare a detailed “what if” course of actions.
9. Conduct an extensive preflight inspection using the aircraft checklist, and secure loose items in the cockpit.
10. Find a quiet location and go over the flight in your mind—especially all emergency items and what actions you will take.
11. Fly the flight plan profile, keeping the AFM/POH nearby and open to the emergency section.
12. Discontinue the flight at the first indication something is not right.

In conclusion, remember there are no provisions for the FAA to issue a Special Flight Permit (Ferry Permit) for a test flight. The aircraft MUST be approved for return to service prior to the test flight by an authorized person (A&P, Repair Station, etc.). Again, the term “test flight” is generic, the term “functional check flight” really fits the nature of most test flight operations conducted in general aviation.

The above checklist is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be a complete guide to conducting any flights. It is provided only to get you thinking about potential hazards and how to minimize some of the often overlooked, taken-for-granted, killer items.

While this procedure may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, especially for a simple hop around the patch, it will pay big dividends when things go south, and they will...if not today, then tomorrow. Mr. Murphy and his law are alive and well!


During the frenzy to get Part 1 of this article out, I neglected to give credit for the axioms I used throughout the article. These words of wisdom provide thought provoking statements and summarize several truisms that apply to the intriguing world of aviation. And for those of you who missed the first article, they bear repeating.

Credit where credit is due:
"The object of the game, is not to cheat death...the object is not to let him play!"
-Patrick Poteen, Sgt. U.S. Army

"At the worst possible time, the worst possible thing will happen."
-Murphy's Law

"If you don't check your ego...better check your estate planning. Someone's going to need it!"
-Yours Truly, Karry Ray

"A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations that require the use of his superior skill."
-Old aviation proverb

"Go from the known to the unknown...Slowly!"
-Chris Wheal, Military test pilot

Make it right from the ground up!

Next issue: Tools!

Karry D. Ray, Airworthiness Safety Program Manager
Albuquerque FSDO

Click here to return to the beginning of this article.

The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.