“The role of the flight test team is to take XB-1 supersonic as safely as possible,” began Boom’s Chief Test Pilot Bill “Doc” Shoemaker. Following the rollout of Boom’s supersonic demonstrator, Shoemaker and his fellow flight test leaders shared an inside look at the company’s avionics lab and key training tools for flight.
As the team shared, flight testing is a disciplined and incremental process. Boom’s XB-1 team began much of the training during the build phase of the aircraft, leveraging a number of tools. These most significantly include flight hours in Boom’s in-house simulator, test rehearsals with the full control room team, and actual pilot time at the helm of high-performance supersonic.
“A simulator takes the latest information about the aircraft and gives the pilot a preview of how it will handle in-flight,” said Shoemaker.
“There are two primary purposes of Boom’s simulator,” added Test Pilot Chris “Duff” Guarente. “The first is of an engineering design tool and the second is that of a training tool for both the pilots and the control room.”
During full rehearsals with Boom’s team of 30 control room engineers, the simulator is synced to the control room to recreate every single facet of first flight.
Control room rehearsals
Chief Flight Test Engineer Jeff Mabry continued, “I’m currently taking our team of engineers through a comprehensive training and rehearsal program. The objective is to make sure they are prepared for a safe flight test and everything goes exactly as planned. By the time we are complete, they will probably have seen the first flight over one-hundred times.”
Unique to Boom’s flight test team are the engineers’ backgrounds. “The engineers who are part of this flight test team are the same individuals who designed it, so they know the aircraft like the back of their hands.”
High-performance aircraft flight
Beyond the simulator and avionics lab, training in a similar high-performance aircraft is also critical for understanding XB-1’s unique handling qualities. “In order to get a real-world flavor prior to first flight, we will fly high-performance aircraft like the F-5 and F-104 to help us hone our skills,” said Shoemaker.
Beyond first flight
In order to break the sound barrier for the first time, Boom’s team plans to use an incremental approach.“We’ll take what we learn from a previous flight and plan for the next flight using that information. We will start with a small, well-understood part of the envelope and build from there.”
Ultimately, each of these training tools combined benefits the safety of the pilots and success of the program.