PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- The first AH-1Z Super Cobra test aircraft ended 2002 on a high note after completing the envelope expansion portion of the test program and achieving more than 400 flight test hours.
With envelope expansion finished, AH-1Z testers have completed the first major portion of flight testing on the Marine Corps' newest attack helicopter.
"In envelope expansion, we essentially determine how high and how fast the aircraft can go," explained Vic DiSanto, systems engineer with the H-1 Integrated Test Team here. "We start at a hover and go from there."
In between, DiSanto explained, test pilots and engineers check the aircraft's performance against engineering estimates at various airspeeds, altitudes and G loadings. Once validated by these tests, the data will be used as the basis for the platform's Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) manual - the operating manual developed for each aircraft.
During this first phase of flight testing, AH-1Z test pilots and engineers took the test aircraft to 220 kts, maneuvered to -0.3 to +3.5 Gs and reached a 16,000-foot altitude since its first flight in December 2000.
"Having accomplished 400 hours of envelope expansion test flying during the first 24 months of engineering and manufacturing development on this airframe exemplifies the dependability, reliability and maintainability in the design of the AH-1Z," stated Lt. Col. Nic Hall, government flight test director for the H-1 integrated test team. "Especially so, considering the average AH-1W fleet utilization rate is 300 hours-per-year."
With these milestones accomplished, the aircraft turns next to external stores jettison testing, where the aircraft tests its capability to safely and effectively rid itself of anything attached to its six "hard points" in the event of an emergency or malfunction.
By the holiday break, Zulu One had already flown 7.5 hours testing Hellfire missile rack jettisons. The test articles being dropped were inert and ballasted to represent fully armed and capable missiles.
Additionally, the three AH-1Z test aircraft recently supported cockpit mapping for the Thales Top Owl helmet-mounted display.
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