07 December 2008

Term of the Day: Maintenance Test Flight

One of the realities of modern aviation is that aircraft need a lot of maintenance. Some would say that the crew chiefs are the unsung heroes of the aviation world, as they toil in the 130F heat day in and day out, leaving at the end of an exhausting day covered in grease.

But there is a group of people even more unsung, unsunger, or something than the crew chiefs. You see, after the crew chief fixes the aircraft, someone has to be the first to fly it.

Enter: the maintenance test pilot.

Of course, the maintenance test pilot has been to school and is highly specialized in performing the checks and tests required to fully validate that an aicraft is ready for flight. Nay, the really brave person is the maintenance test pilot's assistant, the test pilot of the day--the person who wakes up in the morning, sees that he's scheduled to fly an aircraft that was just fully taken apart and put back together again that past week.

And, just my luck, I've been the maintenance test pilot of the day a couple of times this past week or so. At least it makes for interesting flying...I particularly like how I found out that none of the audio warning tones worked. But that's another story for another time.

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