The Mitsubishi Regional Jet has gotten off to a strong start in 2018. The first major test of the year was for high altitude testing, an important benchmark that gauges whether engines, auxiliary power and other important aircraft systems can perform well in thin, low density air.
At Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona, Flight Test Aircraft 4 (FTA-4) once again donned its black mask to continue with extreme temperature tests. FTA-4 was deployed in August and spent multiple days in the Arizona heat operating in a maximum temperature of 42° C, or 108° F. Engineers collected data that will be used to further validate the performance of the aircraft's Environmental Control System (ECS), hydraulics system and powerplant.
The Japan Civil Aviation Bureau performed four familiarization flights aboard the Mitsubishi Regional Jet between August 5th and 7th at Moses Lake Flight Test Center. During the course of three days with clear skies and warm temperatures, flights were conducted in airspace near Grant County International Airport and three JCAB pilots took turns piloting FTA-4.
At the Moses Lake Flight Test Center in Washington, FTA-4 underwent cargo smoke testing between April 7 and April 22, 2017. To set up the test, engineers at Moses Lake installed a smoke machine and flexible hoses inside the cabin, along with lights, smoke detectors, and cameras to monitor real-time smoke generation. During the test, the hoses that were routed under the floor of the aircraft pushed smoke towards the test areas in the cargo compartment and the amount of smoke was controlled using the video cameras.
At McKinley Climatic Laboratory on Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, FTA-4 underwent extreme temperature tests between February 28 and March 17, 2017. After initial set up, temperatures sunk down to -40° C for five full days of extreme cold testing. Following this, the testing team removed their winter coats and swapped in their t-shirts, and ratcheted the heat up to 50° C for several more test days. Among other systems, the test and data gathered is used to validate the performance of the Environmental Control System (ECS). “Pull-Up” and “Pull-Down” tests, which begin in a cold or hot soaked condition, measured the ability of the system to control the cabin and flight deck to a comfortable temperature within a specified time.
In February and March 2017, Flight Test Aircraft 4 (FTA-4) performed initial natural icing tests based out of the Rockford International Airport in Illinois. This was the first off-site test campaign to collect data in these conditions.
Tests performed by a team of global specialists using dedicated flight test instrumentation obtained valuable data to analyze the airframe ice accretion and Ice Protection Systems performance. Guided by a meteorologist on the ground, FTA-4 flew through clouds with specific moisture content, water droplet size and temperature resulting in varied icing conditions to understand how the aircraft would perform and eliminate ice on the leading edge of the wings and engines during flight.