At Flight International, flight test reports are at the core of our reporting – and 2016 was a year when our test pilots got a crack at a string of innovative aircraft. Here are some highlights:
Mike Gerzanics flies 737s for a living – so when an opportunity came up to fly Bombardier’s single-aisle contender, he didn’t have to be asked twice. And he wasn’t disappointed. But why, he asks, did Bombardier wait so long to build the CSeries?
Kevin Swinicki Photography
2. Falcon 8X
The late Peter Collins flew fast jets for the RAF and was a member of the Red Arrows display team – and as a Flight test pilot he always enjoyed a ride in a Falcon business jet, which lends some credence to Dassault’s claim that its commercial offerings share much DNA with fighter jets. The 7X was long his clear favourite, so the 8X had a lot to prove. But, in what would be his last sortie for Flight, Collins discovered a new flagship.
Peter Collins, 8X and Rafale
With 1,400 sold over 25 years, the Swiss-made PC-12 is a familiar sight – and among the most successful turboprop singles ever built. But a new composite propeller, more powerful engine, aerodynamic improvements and a cockpit upgrade warranted a fresh look, so Mike Gerzanics joined Pilatus’s US team in Denver for a trip over the mountains and back.
4. Piper M600
For many general aviation enthusiasts, the 1970s was a golden era: a buoyant market and a wide choice of high-performance aircraft. Times may have got tougher, but the machines haven’t stood still. Piper’s PA-46 Malibu piston single became the Meridian turbine and, in 2015, the M500. Eager to find out how far things have moved on, Mike Gerzanics flew the even more powerful M600.
Jim Barrett/Piper Aircraft
Flight International first test-flew the H135 in 1998 – when it was still known as the EC135 and manufactured by Eurocopter – so our rotorcraft expert Peter Gray was curious to see what improvements have been made. One of the biggest has been a new avionics package; with certification imminent, Gray was privileged to fly the latest Helionix-equipped variant at Airbus’s Donauwörth factory in Germany.