My ever-vigilant neighbor caught the official end to my Phase 1 test period on “Loki,” the little jet, this morning as I made a pass to “check altimeter calibration” (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…) and then pulled up for the landing pattern. With that pass, I finished the prescribed 40 hour test period, but had actually completed the test program about ten hours before – yet these are still experimental aircraft and there are things I’ll be looking in to, and will be collecting data for some time to come. Officially however, the airplane is now free to roam outside of the original test area (which was admittedly pretty large) and can be taken anywhere… like Southern California, or even Wisconsin!
During the Phase 1 period, we’ve done lots of testing for basic and advanced flight parameters, accumulated lots of cruise performance data, and flown a variety of aerobatic maneuvers so that they could be signed off in the logbook as “approved” by the builder (me). Just as important, the builder/pilot (me) has accumulated 40 hours of experience and is getting comfortable with the flight characteristics, but will continue learning with every flight. For now, the jet has earned an oil change and a detailed inspection of all of the component parts, so we’ll open it up and make sure that its still as good as new (which I expect).
It’s been a fun and professionally challenging flight test program, not because the jet has any bad habits, but because its good to demand accuracy and precision in one’s flying – and flight testing is the place to do that. Doing a Phase 1 always leaves me a better pilot because I sharpen myself up to hold speeds and altitudes to within a knot and a few feet. The jet is sensitive enough that it took more precision than other airplanes, and that is good. Now to keep that level of precision for all my flying–that’s the next challenge!