Test Pilot School keeping pace with aviation advances

The new modern avionics system installed in USNTP’s three twin-engine C-12C Hurons enhances safety, giving access to flight information publications, weather reports, and air traffic and terrain maps.

The navigation and communication equipment installed on modern-day aircraft look a lot like a video game, with screens and pixels instead of traditional gauges and dials. These modern systems, called avionics, also offer older aircraft a new lease on life.

That’s exactly what the United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) C-12 fleet got with the installation of the Garmin G1000NXi. The modernized avionics system being installed in the school’s three twin-engine C-12C Hurons provides improved situational awareness for pilots, with GPS and moving maps that show precise location of the aircraft as well as what is on the ground and in the airspace around it. The new system enhances safety, giving access to flight information publications such as aeronautical charts and approach plates, real-time weather reports, and air traffic and terrain maps. The G1000NXi has improved capabilities for monitoring and logging flight data, which maintenance and quality assurance crews can access for improved understanding of aircraft performance.

“This new flight deck management system is by far the most advanced in the USNTPS fleet,” said USNTPS Deputy Chief Flight Instructor Bob Blake, “It not only allows USNTPS students to maintain better situational awareness, particularly when flying without visual references, but it also gives the USNTPS fleet an additional capability for systems training.”

The avionics suite offers USNTPS students a platform on which to evaluate, analyze, and test one of the newest avionics systems on the market, giving them valuable experience as the military looks to modernize fleet aircraft.

“It is important that our staff, students and course content keep pace with advances in aviation and aviation systems,” said USNTPS Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Rory Feely. “Upgrades like the one in the C-12 contribute to our robust curriculum while providing the students exposure to more advanced systems with embedded safety features.”

USNTPS uses its three C-12s, which are on loan from the U.S. Army, to demonstrate test techniques for measuring and evaluating turboprop flying qualities, handling qualities, and performance. These tests analyze the aircraft’s response to pilot input and enable testers to communicate with engineers to determine appropriate fixes, when needed. The upgraded avionics give pilots greater ease of aircraft operation, while also providing an opportunity for flight test engineers in training to evaluate a modern, relevant avionics suite.

“The skills attained at USNTPS are transferrable across the aviation industry and in many ways, USNTPS graduates are the brain trust of military aviation combat capability,” said Feely. “Because military aviation systems operate in the most diverse and extreme environments, adequate testing is imperative.”

One C-12 has already received the new flight deck management system, while the second is having its new system installed at a contractor facility and the third will have its installed once the second aircraft returns.