National Research Council of Canada uses legacy aircraft to develop new designs and skills

NRC flight tests, advanced engineering and wind tunnel experiments help achieve safer flight, better pilot techniques.

FRL Research Officer, Flight Mechanics and Avionics Sion Jennings.

He also conducts flight testing. Working in operations for the Canadian Forces, Leslie has flown and tested numerous helicopters as well as the Boeing E3A. Paul Kissman is a flight mechanics and avionics research test pilot.

Part of the FRL team for 2 years, Kissman graduated from the Royal Military College in mechanical engineering. He has flown the McDonnell Douglas CF18 Hornet, attended the UK’s Empire Test Pilot School, and was a squadron commander before becoming senior test pilot at CFB Cold Lake.

With 2500 hrs TT, Kissman is known among his colleagues as the “fixed-wing guy.”

Airborne Research Officer Anthony Brown started his career as a Lockheed P3 Orion pilot with the Royal Australian Navy. He began working in certification and flight testing in Australia and the UK before moving to Canada.

Research programs

The Airborne Research Program develops atmospheric sensing, geophysics and remote sensing technologies for military and civilian applications. Researchers acquire knowledge about icing and other natural hazards and their effect on aircraft operations.

Their expertise in aeromagnetic, aerogravity, and hyperspectral imaging is focused on development of new sensing tools such as the airborne dual-wavelength Doppler radar for use in aircraft icing, cloud physics research and climate change studies.

The program also provides access to a microgravity environment for evaluating experiments that might otherwise have to be undertaken at far higher cost in space. The Flight Mechanics and Avionics Program concentrates on the study of the aircraft, the pilot, and the interaction between the two.

Particular programs of flight testing include evaluating aircraft performance, stability and control, cockpit technologies and the effect of human factors on the safety of flight.

The 2 primary research tools in flight mechanics are a Bell 412HP advanced systems research aircraft (ASRA) and a Bell 205, both equipped with fly-by-wire.

Flight test and evaluation

FRL Mgr, Flight Mechanics and Avionics Stephan Carignan.

Since 1946 NRC has conducted flight testing for everything from the evaluation of system concepts to the gathering of certification data. Testing is performed by demonstrating different aircraft response characteristics and using control inceptors, such as conventional center-stick models and side-arm controllers.

In addition, NRC administers courses for other test pilot schools to test pilots and flight test engineers, and provides courses for engineers and university students. In conjunction with other agencies, FRL has developed several novel flight test techniques for evaluating new and modified aircraft.

It has also developed precise mathematical models of aircraft performance. FRL is also involved in programs to assess rotorcraft handling qualities and cockpit systems. It has the expertise to assess new and modified equipment, control augmentation laws/theories or degraded flight conditions, all of which can affect the performance of pilot and aircraft.

For more than a decade, NRC has provided world-class specialized training for major test pilot schools at FRL in Ottawa. It offers 2-week training sessions on advanced handling qualities for students at training organizations in the US, Canada, France and the UK.

A typical NRC course includes 8–12 students. Most have flown 15–20 different types of aircraft. Over the past 10 years, hundreds of test pilots have been trained in what Erdos calls “maybe the only graduate level course for test pilot schools.”

Its popularity comes from the range of aircraft and scenarios available for student training including the Bell 205 and 412HP variable-stability helicopters. Erdos underlines that FRL’s helicopters are programmable and can simulate adverse flying conditions that test pilots might never experience in certified machines.

NRC aircraft fleet

Head of Airworthiness Engineering Ed Pinnell.

FRL maintains and operates a small fleet of very specialized helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, with each becoming a facility for different kinds of research. Three types of Bell helicopter are used. The Bell 412HP is configured with onboard research equipment for developing and testing flight systems and cockpit technologies.

The Bell 205 is used as an FBW platform for simulating any type of fixed or rotary-wing aircraft. In addition, a Bell 206B—specially configured for night vision operations with compatible lighting—is used for examining the role of NVGs in fighting forest fires at night.

FRL’s airborne research group has collaborated with Environment Canada, Transport Canada and NASA on major international projects using 3 specially equipped aircraft—a Convair 580, DHC6 Twin Otter and Canadair CT133—to collect data on air pollution, severe weather, cloud formation and radiative properties, and greenhouse gas emission.

The Convair 580 is equipped with instrumentation for measuring a range of atmospheric states and is capable of long-distance operations. The Twin Otter is used for conducting atmospheric and biospheric studies related to global warming. And the lab’s CT133 is used in the study of aircraft wakes and vortices, atmospheric boundary layers, convective turbulence and avionics systems development.

It is capable of low to high-altitude operations in harsh environments. FRL’s fixed-wing fleet also includes a Dassault Falcon 20, a Canadian Car & Foundry (CCF) Harvard Mk IV and an Extra 300. The Falcon 20 is currently used for examining aircraft stopping performance on wet runways and for microgravity research.

The Harvard is a fully aerobatic aircraft used as an experimental platform for avionics and systems research.

Finally, the Extra 300 is used for supporting general re­search, training and evaluation due to its aerobatic performance, easy handling and dependable stability. Operating under special privileges provided to the laboratory by Transport Canada, IAR’s design and fabrication staff allow the team to modify aircraft quickly and safely to meet the research needs of each program.


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