Flight Test Safety Fact 19-09

In 1999, Greg Lewis presented a paper to the Flight Test Society of Australia, "Flight Test Safety in Civil Certification," in which he describes unique risks and incidents that occurred during civil certification flight test with government test pilots.  One of the interesting facts in the paper is the first known reference (I think)--in a technical paper--to the FAA's Order 4040.26.  For some of us, it seems like the order always existed, but this paper reminds us that FAA's test safety guidance is relatively young, at least in its current form.  The other thing the paper describes is several flight test aircraft incidents.  The ability to recall incidents like this is important for flight test professionals, because it informs our intuition about the likelihood of the hazards we are assessing. It gives us data by which to assess the confidence of our probability estimates.  Or does it?

That is the question addressed herein -- how confident are we? 

The question may cause some to sweat, bringing memories of Comprehensive Oral exams at TPS or flashback of basic stats class from college, but the heuristics proposed herein should reduce the anxiety of the reader.  These rules will enable us, as a flight test community, to communicate about uncertainty even as we face more it in the years to come.

One last thing about Greg's paper: it's an excellent resource, and the FTSA recently generously shared it with members of our community. So get your hands on a copy and thank your colleagues down under

Finally, please continue to share this newsletter.  Let us know when you do, because we want to Reach Everyone (117%).  Send questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or any FTSC member.

Mark Jones Jr.

For added security and convenience, you can download the newsletter here.

Flight Test Safety Fact 19-07

It has been almost two months since the Flight Test Safety Workshop, and you can now find video presentations from the workshop posted on the website: http://www.flighttestsafety.org/2019-charleston-sc.  As you may recall, the Workshop provided our community with a chance to discuss "Data to Assure Success."  As I began to watch the videos, I encountered an amusing interchange:

Person A: "Your slide said SMS requires no oversight..."

You could almost hear the confusion in his voice.

Person B: "Excuse me...my apologies. I speak Australian. What I meant was when you skip a step, you say it must have been an oversight, and we don't want any oversights.  With SMS, because we use methodical procedures, we won't overlook specific things."

As we can see, miscommunication happens even in the most mundane settings.  When we begin to discuss complexity and uncertainty, the risk of miscommunication increases.

To address this challenge, we reach back into the archive to revisit an old idea that we can apply to new problems.  The story contained herein illustrates a scenario where traditional statistical methods failed, and it lays the foundation for a future, more in-depth, discussion on "communicating uncertainty in flight test," an attempt to define heuristics for our community, to discuss both uncertainty and complexity in the days and years ahead.

Mark Jones Jr.

For added security and convenience, you can download the newsletter here.

Flight Test Safety Fact 19-06


In just a few short weeks the videos from the Flight Test Safety Workshop will be posted on the website.  Until that time you can read a message from the Chairman about the Workshop, give feedback, or find out who won the best paper.

You can also find some thoughtful analysis on our use of the 2D Risk Matrix in this month's edition of the Flight Test Safety Fact.

As always, please share it with others as we attempt to Reach Everyone, and send questions or feedback to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mark Jones Jr.

For your convenience, you can download the newsletter here.


Flight Test Safety Fact 19-05: Almost Time For The Annual Flight Test Safety Workshop

It's almost time for the annual Flight Test Safety Workshop, and this issue highlights what's in store. It also includes suggestions for making the most of your visit in Charleston with specific dining recommendations.  

If you are receiving this email, you have a great opportunity to meet people who are not SETP or SFTE members at the workshop and share this resource with them.  This edition also highlights many of the features of the FTSC website and how they complement the Workshop. Additionally, it includes a request from me, your editor, for feedback on the Workshop.

The final column solicits input for a future newsletter topic.  As this newsletter was going to print, I received a note from an editorial reviewer. His comment corrects a statement I made herein, but it also highlights the necessity of the research topic proposed. Here's what he said: "I personally wrote the SMS for the test wing at Pax back in 2008 (hard to believe it was that long ago). That was before it was required for operational and training units in the Navy and Marine Corps… Thank Tom Roberts who convinced me that the FAA AC 120-92 was worthy of consideration. What I don’t know is where SMS stands in our military establishment and in particular, in test and evaluation. I just don’t want us to misspeak if there is in fact some SMS activity out there." I hope you his read his comments and provide your input for this important research too.

As always, we would be delighted to hear from you, whether that's a request to be included on future mailings or even a complaint.  Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Mark Jones Jr.

For your convenience and added security, you can download the newsletter here.


FTSF 19-04: Airshows and Landing at Your Own Risk

As promised, this month’s edition of the Flight Test Safety Fact includes an editorial by LCDR Kurt Pfeffer (USCG).  “I had a brief chance to meet Tom Huff as he spoke to our class finishing up at USNTPS (June 2017) and at SETP events, but otherwise haven’t had any other contact with the FTSC.  I’m a former Marine and current Coastie, with a background in C-130, G100, and GV aircraft.” He hopes that you will get a chance to meet at the workshop in May.

In his editorial, Kurt succinctly collates the principles taught by others and describes how he applied them to an “elevated risk, low frequency” situation.  I am delighted to report that editorial reviewers have already praised his column, but sharing this medium with people like Kurt also advances our goal to Reach Everyone.  The outcome of his story is mundane precisely because it wasn’t catastrophic, but his suggestions also weave into the major theme of this month’s issue: Airshows.  

Airshows amaze us and polarize us. 

Over three thousand words have traveled to and fro, here and there, by way of the internet this past week.  Each of these words was the result of the newsletter you are about to read. Many people have reviewed its contents, and two main themes emerged.  One editorial group suggested that I rework the article to emphasize one theme.  Others found the newsletter thought-provoking as is. Both themes are important, but the mere volume of correspondence that these reflections stimulated are my reason for leaving it unchanged and perhaps unfinished.

I don’t know.  

That’s my answer, as you will find many questions in this edition.  Hopefully, a future edition will include some of the letters I received this week as well as an op-ed from those highlighted in the article.  

Please continue to send comments, feedback, suggestions, and letters to the editor to myself or Tom Huff, FTSC Chairman.

Mark Jones Jr.

For convenience and security, download the newsletter here.

There I Was - Flight Test Safety Fact 19-03

In what we can only describe as "serendipity", Flight Test Safety Committee chairman Tom Huff ran into Col Doug "Beaker" Wickert at a safety workshop in California, hosted by Northrop Grumman Corporation.  That meeting set off a series of conversations and emails that led to this month's column from Beaker himself. 

There's an analogy in there about random collisions...about how the collision of atoms can create an enormous amount of energy.  I won't belabor the point, but conversations and differing opinions and dialogue are exactly the outcomes that we intend to create by these short newsletters.  One editorial reviewer said, "Now I want to find out more about STPA."  That's exactly the kind of response for which I had hoped.

There are others letters coming in, and we will print them as soon as we can.  This month features the memories of a pilot who watched the accidental first flight of the YF-16 as the Supervisor of Flying (SOF).  He shares a story from an earlier time, when airplanes had variable sweep wings, and helmets had variable sweep visors.

Finally, you can find out about the FTSW dinner keynote speaker--register now and get the chance to hear a legend.


Mark Jones Jr.

For convenience and security, you can download this edition of the newsletter here.

Accidental First Flights Make Headlines - Flight Test Safety Fact 19-02

January 20th was the 45th anniversary of the accidental first flight of the YF-16.  This phenomenon is not new, but it seems like "some of us" have not learned our lesson yet, with accidental first flights recurring in the closing months of 2018.  Read more in this month's edition of the Flight Test Safety Fact, and then if you know either pilot, send them a copy of this newsletter as we continue to try to *reach everyone.*

This edition also documents more innovations and experiments in flight test safety with a report on STPA--if you don't know what this acronym means, you'll have to read "It Didn't Work", the second feature column in this month's edition. 

Finally, we share some of the great feedback we received from the first edition and the questions they raised.  Please continue to send feedback, suggestions, and requests for future newsletter topics to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Mark Jones Jr.

For added convenience and security, you can download the newsletter pdf here.

New Guidance Document Added Under the Recommended Practices Tab

Fellow flight test professionals, on behalf of your Flight Test Safety Committee (FTSC), I wanted to direct your attention to a new guidance document added to the FTSC web site under the Recommended Practices tab (http://flighttestsafety.org/recommended-practices).

This guidance document details recommended practices related to the use of recorders during flight test and was prompted by a NTSB Recommendation following the fatal Bell 525 flight test mishap of July 2016. This guidance accommodates the spectrum of flight test operations and the advantages of recorders to enhance flight test safety and execution (underpinned as a test data capture requirement, not just accident/incident causation tools).  The FTSC highly encourages the adoption of the recommended practices within test organization and/or program SOPs and policies.  We welcome any feedback on this guidance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In your service,

Tom Huff
Flight Test Safety Committee

New Flight Test Safety Committee Chairman Announced

At the conclusion of the Flight Test Safety Workshop in May, Mr. Jerry Whites announced that after five years of service, he would be stepping down as Committee Chairman. Whites will remain on the Committee and has "passed the stick" onto Mr. Tom Huff.

FTSC Jerry Tom 2017

(L-R) Jerry Whites and New FTSC Chairman Tom Huff

Checklists to Enhance Safety Article

Please click here to read an article by our recent 2017 Flight Test Safety Workshop Tutorial presenters, William Higgins and Daniel Boorman.

Or you may download the full detailed article here.


High Altitude Testing

Many, if not most, FAA Part 25 (Transport) aircraft want to get certified for high altitude airport operations. These operations put challenges on the aircraft in various ways that need to be tested and certified. This includes mainly pressurization systems and engine operations (starting and thermal issues). The FAA allows for 3000’ extrapolation of flight test data. The highest commercial airport is approximately 14,500’ so testing is desired at 11,500 or above. A commonly used major airport test location is at La Paz, Bolivia (13,325’). Testing at high altitudes presents some unique safety issues, mainly physiological, that I will discuss below.