Brett Hazlett writes;
When the wind's on, it's on!
You drop everything to get those gliders flown before the shipment leaves... but it's not a testfly day until Steve Moyes says so. If we've been good, we get to go flying.
Good boys get to go flying; bad boys get to make battens!
Stanwell Park is the testflight site of choice, because the often smooth ridge lift along the coast allows the testpilots to notice the most subtle tendencies of each glider.
For prototype testing, comparison flights are made in coastal ridge lift, followed by inland thermal sites, to evaluate the overall performance of the new design.
The objective for production testflying is for every glider to fly exactly the same. The testpilots, under the guidance of Steve and Gerolf, agree on what the perfect balance of flight characteristics is, and try to tune every glider towards this ideal. The goal is for every glider to have the same personality in the air.
The most focus is placed upon the symmetry of each glider. You want the glider to behave the same to the left and right, regardless of speed or VG setting. For example, with the VG off, the glider should stabilize (hands off) at the same bank angle and airspeed, to the left and right.
Then trim speed is adjusted for best climb at low VG settings, and best pitch feel at high VG settings.
Each testpilot has a personal style to get-to-know each glider. A glider may exhibit asymmetry only at certain VG settings and only at certain speeds, so it is necessary to be observant and sensitive to what the glider is communicating to you. It takes 20-40min for a testflight, depending upon the conditions. Difficult soaring conditions or rough conditions require more time to evaluate a glider.
Experienced testpilots decide what adjustments are necessary even before landing. If necessary, a second testflight confirms that the glider is flying as it should.
Some people might say that getting paid to fly is a dream job. Well, it aint bad, but it's still a job, with stress and responsibility. If a customer isn't happy with how their glider flies, the testpilot is first in the line-of-fire. And there is a schedule;
when good testflying weather is rare, we often have many gliders to fly each day that is flyable. Each pilot often has to fly and tune 4-6 gliders per testfly day.
It's not the perfect dream job, but it's pretty darn close. Flying the latest gliders, hours off the production line, along the breathtaking coastline of Australia, sure is fun!
And anything is better than making battens!