Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences
Ralph D. Kimberlin
Brian A. Kish
David. C. Fleming
The following flight test was conducted as part of the culmination requirement for the Master of Science, Flight Test Engineer degree program from Florida Institute of Technology. The flight was conducted to gather data and produce a flight test report on the data gathered. The flight test plan consisted of a series of both Stability and Handling test point as well as basic aircraft performance points. The testing was planned to be accomplished over a single flight, for reasons discussed later in this report. The flight departed on the morning of 26 September, 2022 out of Bob Sikes Airport, KCEW, in Crestview, Fl and returned three hours later to the same airport. All flying was conducted in the local area, at altitudes below 6,500’. During this flight I was the PIC as well as the Test Pilot and primary flying pilot for nearly all test points. I was accompanied on the flight by a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) from the flight school I rented the aircraft from. This CFI acted as a Safety Pilot during the test points as well as other crew duties throughout the flight.
The test aircraft was a Piper PA-28-181 Archer III, owned by Emerald Coast Aviation (Emerald Coast Aviation, 2022). This aircraft’s primary role is as a trainer aircraft, available for rental and aircraft instruction from Emerald Coast Aviation. The aircraft for the flight is a common, general aviation aircraft and has had a historically safe record of flight throughout its production history, with most all accidents attributed to pilot error. This airframe is a low wing, single Lycoming engine powering this four-seat aircraft. The test aircraft was originally airworthiness certified under the old version of 14 CFR Part 23 Air Worthiness standards.
For this thesis, it is my believe that the test aircraft will exhibit performance numbers that are within 10% of the of the performance numbers stated in the approved Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) for the airframe. I expect to find that some performance numbers, specifically climb performance and idle descent performance are on the outer bounds of this 10% margin, primarily as a result of specific aircraft loading and CG. Data reduction will focus on these areas, in addition to the stability and control testing accomplished. Where applicable, I will provide reference to the standards originally used to certify this airframe, as well as a comparison of the data to the new standards, released in 2017 (Federal Aviation Administration, 2017).
The flight was conducted on the morning of 26 September 2022 and planned for a local area flight to measure and record a series of aircraft stability points as well as aircraft performance test points. The data was gathered during the three-hour flight with a successful landing back at KCEW. The primary logging was accomplished via the Garmin G1000 glass panel display allowing for 1hz data captures to an SD card. Also, a handheld force gauge was utilized for measuring stick forces. The flight was also recorded via Flight Aware and Foreflight as backups for data recordings and historical tracking.
This flight test was conducted with only one Center of Gravity (C.G.) point and with only one aircraft weight. A full scope flight test would have tested multiple points along the CG and weight spectrum, however that was not practical for the purpose of this test event. This test event was not attempting to expand on, or approach any limits as published in the approved Pilots Operating Handbook (POH). This flight test was intended as a validation of known and expected aircraft performance.
The contents of this paper and test report will summarize the results of the data collected. Quantitative data will be reduced to produce plots, and the qualitative data will be summarized. The goal for this flight test was to validate that the Piper PA-28-181 and its handling and performance was within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards outlined in 14 CFR Part 23. The secondary goal of this fight test was to demonstrate my ability as a Flight Test Engineer to plan a flight test, conduct the testing, and preform the data reduction and equations required to generate usable data and predictions based on the data collected.
Overall observations and reductions from the flight showed results well within the expected performance and stability ranges for the aircraft. The aircraft generally performed close to the POH in terms of aircraft climb and cruise performance, with slight variations from the POH, as expected, though well within an acceptable margin for the average pilot. Stability and control points indicated that this is a very stable handling aircraft, with heavy and quick dampening to any abrupt control inputs. It also displayed a slow and gentle rate of change during stick free maneuvers. This plane was easy and stable to fly, with no tendency to react in a way unexpected or quicker than an average pilot could compensate for, which was backed up by the shown data.
Sutton, Steven Allan, "Piper PA-28-181 Archer III Tail #931EC Flight Test Stability, Control and Performance" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 750.