Aircraft flight testing

Experimental flight tests gather data and enable assessments to:

  • certify performance
  • assess flying qualities (stability, control and aircraft handling qualities)
  • assess human factors such as ergonomics, crew workload, suitability for various operation types
  • assess the performance and operating characteristics of aircraft systems.

Experimental flight tests

Experimental flight tests relate to an aircraft evaluation to meet airworthiness standards and not a practical test of a person's knowledge or flying skill. These include:

New aircraft, or major changes to an existing aircraft will require flight testing to ensure they meet certification requirements.

New aircraft

We use flight tests to certify new aircraft. We align these tests to their Airworthiness Certification Category.

When flight testing an aircraft:

  • the applicant conducts flight tests to prepare the aircraft for type certification
  • we conduct conformity inspections and flight tests to certify the aircraft as per CASR 21.035.

Once the flight testing has concluded, we issue a type certificate.

Type certification testing guides are available on the FAA website:

Modified aircraft

When modifying an aircraft:

the aircraft may need flight tests.

When determining the need for flight tests we:

Mandatory flight tests and CASA certification

If an aircraft's modifications:

  • impact performance
  • change stability, control or handling characteristics
  • change human factors aspects of the design

then a flight test and CASA certification is mandatory (where gathering data needs to happen in flight).

We may require a flight test to show that design changes do not adversely affect the original certification.

Applications must demonstrate that original certification is unaffected when changes are made, including but not limited to the following:

  • engines, propellers or rotor blades
  • airframe, wing or control surface shape (includes items attached to the fuselage)
  • flight control systems
  • weight and/or centre of gravity
  • cockpit displays, avionics and aircraft systems
  • aircraft operating environment.

We issue a supplementary type certificate once:

  • flight testing of the modified design has concluded
  • the applicant has demonstrated all applicable airworthiness requirements.
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