July 2013 Issue

Becoming Your Own Test Pilot

Most aircraft never make “book” performance. The only way to know how it will perform is to do some real-world testing.

Very few airplanes get precisely “book” performance. Some do better, some don’t quite meet the specs. Meanwhile, common piloting techniques differ from those recommended by the pilot’s operating handbook (POH) or airplane flight manual (AFM). It’s up to you to determine what is “normal” for your airplane, and the way you fly it. To learn what even a type-certificated airplane will truly do and when, you need to test-fly the airplane. For a time, I was the lead instructor for Beechcraft Bonanza training for an international flight safety organization working at the Beech factory airport. Part of the training we provided included flight in the customer’s airplane. One of the items on the flight training syllabus was to show different flying techniques, and compare actual performance received to that predicted by the POH.

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