Aviation - Avions NASA-Prototypes
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After completing its first flight with the Digital Flight Control System on December 16, 1997, the F-16XL #1 aircraft began a series of envelope expansion flights. On January 27 and 29, 1998, it successfully completed structural clearance tests, as well as most of the load testing Only flights at Mach 1.05 at 10,000 feet, Mach 1.1 at 15,000 feet, and Mach 1.2 at 20,000 feet remained. During the next flight, on February 4, an instrumentation problem cut short the planned envelope expansion tests. After the problem was corrected, the F-16XL returned to flight status, and on February 18 and 20, flight control and evaluation flights were made. Two more research flights were planned for the following week, but another problem appeared. During the ground start up, project personnel noticed that the leading edge flap moved without being commanded. The Digital Flight Control Computer was sent to the Lockheed-Martin facility at Fort Worth, where the problem was traced to a defective chip in the computer. After it was replaced, the F-16XL #1 flew a highly successful flight controls and handling qualities evaluation flight on March 26, clearing the way for the final tests. The final limited loads expansion flight occurred on March 31, and was fully successful. As a result, the on-site Lockheed-Martin loads engineer cleared the aircraft to Mach 1.8. The remaining two handling qualities and flight control evaluation flights were both made on April 3, 1998. These three flights concluded the flight test portion of the DFCS upgrade.