Flight Controls Test Methodology
In modern aircraft designs, Fly-by-Wire flight controls actuate the flight control surfaces using electrical and electronic position sensors and actuation signals. These electronically controlled systems include a great deal of intelligence as required to ensure safety during failure conditions and provide additional capabilities not available in conventional cable-driven flight control systems. The Iron Bird facility is used to test the flight control system through a wide range of normal operating and failure-mode conditions without risk of crashing a flight test aircraft. The Iron Bird facility includes real control surface actuators, the associated hydraulic and electrical system components, sensors and drive electronics, the related avionics systems, and more. The ADvantage Framework provides the software platform layered on top of commercial-off-the-shelf computer equipment to create the facility’s simulation backbone.
Project development, test execution, test automation, data acquisition, data analysis, report generation, and test evidence archiving are performed using the ADvantage Framework tools. The ADvantage tools connect with the real-time simulation system across a standard TCP/IP Ethernet network. This provides a great deal of flexibility in the design of a facility and allows the team to connect from virtually anywhere, receive streaming test data, perform analysis, work collaboratively, and get the job done.
The Iron Bird facility includes a “force loading system” that applies hinge moment forces to the aircraft control surfaces (ex: ailerons, flaps, rudder, etc.) representative of the aerodynamics forces applied during the simulated flight test and driven by the flight simulation model. Mechanical actuators are mounted to the Iron Bird’s external structure and apply a load to each control surface under high-fidelity, closed-loop control by the facility’s real-time aircraft simulation. Low-latency and real-time determinism in the entire system are of critical importance. If the system under-performs then the test results are invalid. The ADvantage Framework is industry-tested to meet the demanding real-time performance requirements of the Iron Bird facility.