Ever wondered why or how they make aircraft so safe? They are without doubt the safest mode of transport, but how do they achieve this feat? Largely this is down to something called the Flight Test. The Flight Test is, as the name suggests, a test flight where a prototype aircraft is put through its paces to ensure it performs as well as being able to cope when placed in various situations.
During a flight test, the crews will look to simulate many dangerous conditions that could place the aircraft in jeopardy. For example, one particular flight test may involve performing a series of steep climbs and descents, to stress the airframe to ensure it is strong enough to cope.
Flight Tests can take years and the attention to detail in extreme to say the least. During testing, every possible measurement is recorded and analysed. Aircraft are incredibly complex, a jet liner for example is made up of between 1 million and 2 million parts and as history has taught us, only one small part (e.g. one small screw) needs to fail in order to jeopardise the entire aircraft. This is, therefore, why flight testing is so complicated and drawn out, and why it can be up to two decades between the idea for a new aircraft and actually coming in to production.
Flight Tests can be incredibly dangerous and are often either performed by test pilots or the aircraft can be controlled remotely. Boeing have an excellent video detailing how they tested the new Boieng 787 Dreamliner, which you can watch below.