After 13 years of construction, Glasair SIIS FT N600 launched from Chesapeake regional (KCPK) on her maiden voyage the morning of Wednesday June 4, 2014 piloted by Maj. Justin Lewis of FLS Micro Jet fame. Dale Fowler in his Glasair N264DD flew the chase plane providing external eyes on and confirming airspeed and altitude readings for Justin.
I am a low time pilot (200+) and had not flown for the last 5 years during the final assembly of my Glasair. The transition plan worked out with EAA 339 flight advisor, John Andre called for 5-10 hours additional flight time to include some Glasair time. I received 7.7 hrs. dual instruction in a 182 @ KLEE. I was fortunate to also get two hops in Dale Fowler’s Glasair II FT N264DD. But I was still a bit uneasy about being N600’s test pilot.
A friend of mine, Maj. Justin Lewis volunteered to fly the first few flights. I jumped at the offer. Justin is US Navy trained pilot, flew F-14s, E-6s, instructed in T-45s and now flies A-10s for the ANG. Previously he owned a Glasair (N68DJ) which he flew for 400+ hrs. He is now an airshow pilot flying the FLS Micro Jet in Airshows such as Sun-n-Fun and Oshkosh.
Knowing Justin and his aviation career I anticipated a high level of professionalism. However, he and his crew chief (yes, he brought his crew chief) far exceeded my vision of how to conduct the test flight evolutions.
- First they reviewed the documentation. They then spent the better part of two days inspecting my airplane. They inspected every item, every wire/bundle and added spiral wrap and tie downs to anything that could possibly move. This is after the DAR and I had certified the plane ready for flight. A trained fresh set of eyes is a wonderful thing! The good news is they did not find any safety of flight issues.
- Justin arrived with eight flight tests designed with the associated kneeboard cards to capture engine and aircraft performance data. He had obviously spent considerable time designing the flight test program prior to his arrival.
- Several hours were spent discussing the specifics of N600 and the operation of unique features. Three ground runs were conducted to confirm engine and engine instrument operation, including performing a high speed taxi run to ensure aircraft control effectiveness.
- Test Flight #1 explored flight controls and characteristics. Flight Test #2 was a repeat of FT #1 to confirm performance data. During FT #3 stalls were investigated and flutter testing was performed.
- After each flight I was provided a lengthy oral debrief followed by a written report with the details of the profiles flown and detailed data collected. The reports were 1.5 to 2 pages in length.
- Unfortunately, marginal WX at KCPK prevented more flights before Justin had to return to OKC.
This was the most complete and professional testing I had seen. Knowing N600 had proved to be a stable, predicable aircraft gave me confidence to launch MY first flight June 14, 2014. I was able to concentrate on flying the new aircraft instead of worrying if and how it would fly. Priceless. I would highly recommend bringing in a “Hired Gun” like Maj. Justin Lewis for your initial flights. You will be very glad you did. (And so will your spouse 🙂 )