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Functional Check Flight FCF
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PapaJoe



Joined: 09 Nov 2020
Posts: 51
Location: Massachusetts USA

PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:59 pm    Post subject: Functional Check Flight FCF Reply with quote

When a USAF Fighter comes out of heavy maintenance, oftentimes it requires a Functional Check Flight (FCF) to check aircraft systems for proper operation. Certain pilots certify to perform FCFs by completing a flight training program demonstrating how to cram a multitude of tests and checks into a 45 minute sortie.

The FCF includes a speed run, and the airplane must attain a certain minimum mach speed to pass the test. This run usually occurs near the end of the profile and requires careful fuel monitoring. Running out of jet fuel on a mach 2 speed run is generally frowned upon by the Command structure.

My first FCF after qualifying taught me a lesson about one of the forces of aerodynamics: drag. After completing the busy list of systems checks, I stroked the afterburner and started accelerating toward top speed. The clean F-106 streaked through mach 1, then continued accelerating toward mach 2. Things get pretty noisy in the cockpit at these speeds, and one can feel the airframe battling its way through the airmass.

Once the mach stabilized at an acceptable level, I abruptly popped the throttle out of afterburner and got quite a surprise. The airplane decelerated so forcefully, I got thrown forward locking the inertial reels on my shoulder harnesses. I was about an inch away from face-planting on the radar scope . . . so, lesson learned.

After landing, I discussed the flight with a few of the more experienced FCF pilots. They advised me to respect the throttle more at high mach, reducing to min afterburner and allowing the airplane to decelerate before deselecting AB. Good advice.

As a side note, every time I drive one of my vintage vehicles, it feels like an FCF. I check systems, listen for unusual noises, and perform a speed run, usually at a speed less than mach 2.
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