EL SEGUNDO, Calif., April 22 /PRNewswire/—The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School is integrating an important airborne systems training tool into a new aircraft platform expected to significantly reduce cost and increase mission success with help from Wyle engineering and technical experts.
Wyle, as a subcontractor to Calspan, is providing engineering and software expertise and aircrew support for incorporation of the Airborne Systems Training and Research Support (ASTARS) system into a new aircraft delivered to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in February.
The ASTARS system is an integral and unique tool in the test pilot school's airborne systems curriculum. The training is designed to expose test pilots, naval flight officers and test engineers to avionics mission systems and hands-on instruction for test and evaluation.
Wyle has supported the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School for more than 30 years, providing as many as seven flight instructors and supporting all three of the school's curricula including fixed wing, rotary wing and airborne systems. Wyle's flight instructors currently perform in-flight, classroom, and laboratory instruction.
The U. S. Naval Test Pilot School, located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., formerly hosted the ASTARS system in two NP-3D aircraft which are considerably larger and heavier than the new Calspan aircraft housing the system - a Saab 340A twin-engine turboprop.
"The Saab 340A airplane we are rehosting the ASTARS system into is very fuel efficient with only two engines as opposed to the P-3's four," said Bob Russell, Wyle's test and engineering senior program manager. "The Saab 340A will perform all ASTARS missions using less fuel, while operating with a smaller flight crew and has available seating to take extra students and instructors."
The Saab aircraft has a simulated cockpit for one student, an instructor station that can support an instructor and an additional student, and passenger seats for up to 12 students or instructors. A typical instruction flight might involve one instructor and three or four students, each of whom would get about one hour of system operation time.
Some of the systems on board the ASTARS aircraft include an APG-66 radar originally designed for the F-16, an MX-15 Electro-Optical turret with infra-red and optical cameras, an LTN-92 inertial navigation system, a global positioning system and a simulated heads-up display.
All are integrated to allow operation using multi-function displays similar to those used in tactical aircraft. Using this updated avionics suite, the instructor trains the students to be proficient as testers and evaluators of various aircraft navigation and surveillance systems.
"The Saab 340A ASTARS will provide the same highly successful training environment as the P-3 platform, but at a significantly reduced cost and with a far higher mission success rate," said Wyle's Mike Eide, who wrote most of the original ASTARS software when it was developed for the school in 1994 by Westinghouse.
"ASTARS provides the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School with a world-class academic tool. No other test pilot school has a comparable system."
Eide's knowledge as a tactical pilot, test pilot, former instructor, systems engineer and software developer gave him the aptitude to tailor the overall system design and modify the ASTARS software for the new aircraft while meeting test pilot school's specific academic requirements.
The aircraft, which will be flown by Wyle and Calspan pilots, will first undergo instructor familiarization flights before student flights take place.