By Jimmie Turner
A T-45A Goshawk test article aircraft attached to the Strike Aircraft Test Squadron surpassed a milestone recently when it accomplished its 1,000th flight.
The Douglass-built jet, the No. 2 aircraft off the production line in 1988, is used to support the Navy's undergraduate primary and advanced jet trainer program at Kingsville, Texas. The 1,000th flight of the aircraft is significant because of the nature of its mission. The aircraft is used today as a test bed for troubleshooting operational deficiencies faced by the T-45 inventory in the Naval Air Training Command.
Bill Smith, flight test engineer for the T-45 project office, said the training command, which manages the operational mission of the Goshawk inventory, identifies existing or potential problems with the aircraft and puts in a call to Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) PMA-273, Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems. Smith said PMA-273, in coordination with Strike, then determines what needs to be done to correct the problem.
"The teaming between our testers at the Strike Aircraft Test Squadron and NAVAIR has been tremendous," said Capt. Tim Heely, T-45 program manager. "The T-45 project office at Strike has consistently completed their projects on budget and provided solid answers to resolve the fleet issues. Additionally, they have identified potential shortfalls to the T-45 Team at an early stage, significantly reducing the program cost and Initial Operational Capability dates."
Lt. Cmdr. Greg Burgess, T-45 project coordinator and test pilot, said when Strike's T-45A (aircraft T-002) executed its 1,000th flight it was actually in the last phase of an engine surge mitigation test program. "There was concern raised by the training command that some of the aircraft in Kingsville were experiencing engine surges or 'stalls'" he said. The aircraft was flown to help the T-45A team at Naval Air Station Patuxent River develop a modification to eliminate the surge anomaly.
And that's where the significance of the T-45A's 1,000th flight comes into play. Test aircraft involved in experimental tests usually require reconfiguration in the form of structural changes or instrumentation of critical areas to gather test data. If it has to, the jet can be reconfigured from nose to tail. Undoubtedly, that takes a lot of coordination among the fleet pilots, PMA-273, test pilots, engineers and maintenance personnel to ensure that the jet can readily be turned around to perform testing.
"These test-bed aircraft are heavily instrumented aircraft ... most of these aircraft never go to the fleet because they've been reconfigured so much," said Smith.
"The jet is very maintenance intensive ... it takes a lot of man hours to prepare the aircraft for testing," added Burgess.
Another notable milestone for the "No. 2" aircraft is that despite all of its reconfigurations and testing sorties, it has been around for more than 10 years. Tim Taylor, Boeing's lead man for the upkeep of the T-45A, is part of the Strike team that maintains continuity for the aircraft. When the call comes in from PMA-273, his team works with engineers and other support personnel from as far away as St. Louis and Bristol, England, to keep the jet in the air for testing. "We can keep it around for as long as they want it," he said.
"That plane has been a workhorse ... 1,000 flights; that's a lot of flight testing," said Burgess. "We get a lot of bang for our buck.
"This milestone was accomplished because of the terrific teaming among the Integrated Program Team, the government and the contractors," Burgess added.
Last updated: 4.16.98