The Flight Test Safety Committee has a Podcast Channel Now!


The Flight Test Safety Committee has begun producing a monthly podcast to share valuable, relevant, and helpful information across our audience of SETP, SFTE and AIAA members and anyone who is interested in safety. Each podcasts will contain information from the latest issue of our digital publication the Flight Test Safety Fact and include a special topic of the month. These Specialty topics will include presentations from recent Symposia, interviews, panel discussions and much more. Click the links below to listen and follow our channel!

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Flight Test Safety Fact 19-12


Did you know that there are almost 200 people in our Societies that do not have email?! (At least we know they did not provide their email address to their Society.) I found that out while counting how many "new" people have received this newsletter over the past year.  In this issue we report to you on the progress towards our goal, as the end of 2019 looms large and the new year approaches.  

In 2020, we will, almost certainly, hear more news about self-driving cars and urban air mobility (UAM) together with the autonomous air taxis needed to make UAM a reality.  This issue introduces the topic of Artificial Intelligence and Flight Test by sharing presentations from those flight test professionals who work with it and sharing news that gets beyond marketing hype and includes technical details.  At least one of these presentations will truly surprise you.

Self-driving cars also made safety headlines, and Chairman Tom Huff addresses this topic head on. He also applies the lessons learned to the safety culture in our organizations.

Finally, we share a great safety resource from SFTE that will help you as you continue to cultivate your safety culture.

As we head to next year, I'd like to hear from you on any and every one of the topic above.  Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your articles and technical papers, your suggestions, and your Reach Everyone reports.



Mark Jones Jr.
Editor, Flight Test Safety Fact

For convenience and added security, you can download the complete newsletter here.

Flight Test Safety Fact 19-11

It’s been over a month since SETP’s Annual Symposium, so I’ve had time to dig through the program, papers, and slides.  Unfortunately, the news cycle doesn’t stop, so I’ve split my time between corresponding with those who presented at and attended the symposium and watching the headlines.  You will find samples from both of these domains in this month’s newsletter.  

The Chairman introduces the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) and encourages you to read it, but he also applies some of its findings to our field, raising some poignant questions.  Additionally, you’ll read the observations from one of our newsletter’s past subjects; he attended the Symposium for the first time. The last section is a paper presented at the Symposium, but before I introduce it, let me explain why I selected it. 

While reading some research about crew resource management, I came across this finding:
“No differences were found between the severity of the errors made by effective and ineffective crews; rather, it was the ability of the effective crews to communicate that kept their errors from snowballing into undesirable outcomes” [1].
This finding is simply astounding.

Our words have the power of life and death.  I think you have heard me say that before, but the topic of communication will continue to appear in these pages often.  That’s on purpose. In this newsletter, we’ve published a paper that not only addresses an important technical test but also illuminates the communication challenges encountered by the test team.  Communication is hard, and getting it right is worth the effort. That’s why you will find Roger Hehr’s paper included in this newsletter. An excerpt is reprinted herein, and the entire paper is *attached* inside the newsletter together with the Chairman’s Annual Flight Test Safety Committee report.  You can find both of these by selecting the paper-clip icon inside your pdf reader.

As a reminder, a future issue of the FTSF will address the topic of AI, so send your questions, suggestions, links and papers about the topic to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or to the Chairman.

Mark Jones Jr.

For convenience and added security, you can download the complete newsletter here.

1. J. Bryan Sexton and Robert L. Helmreich, “Analyzing Cockpit Communication: The Links Between Language, Performance, Error, and Workload.”

Flight Test Safety Fact 19-10

Thirty years ago, my high school still offered a typing class.  At the time, I convinced the principal of my small school to let me drop the class and add an elective math class.  His great concern was that I learn how to type.  I told him that I would install a "typing tutor" application on my computer with its 386 processor.  The software was "smart" enough to know what letters I could type and provide me additional exercises for those I had not mastered.  I mention this anecdote because it marked a transition in the way people learned knowledge and acquired skills.

As flight test professionals, we are at a similar crossroad.  Our ability to teach and train flight test and its related safety and risk management disciplines must adapt to the time we have available and accommodate the technology.  In 1989, software did not include machine learning or artificial intelligence--this is a topic I hope to address in the December issue, so if you would like to contribute, please contact the Flight Test Safety Committee, the Chairman, or the Editor, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

This month, however, we present a broad survey of the ways that flight test education and training are changing, spreading, and ultimately adapting.  The articles herein are a snapshot of where we are today. They complement past issues that presented a more in depth look at specific innovations.  Ultimately, I hope they will inform the reader of the possibilities and inspire us to take advantage of the potential that lies before us.

Mark Jones Jr.

For added security and convenience, you can download the pdf here.


Flight Test Safety Fact 19-09

In 1999, Greg Lewis presented a paper to the Flight Test Society of Australia, "Flight Test Safety in Civil Certification," in which he describes unique risks and incidents that occurred during civil certification flight test with government test pilots.  One of the interesting facts in the paper is the first known reference (I think)--in a technical paper--to the FAA's Order 4040.26.  For some of us, it seems like the order always existed, but this paper reminds us that FAA's test safety guidance is relatively young, at least in its current form.  The other thing the paper describes is several flight test aircraft incidents.  The ability to recall incidents like this is important for flight test professionals, because it informs our intuition about the likelihood of the hazards we are assessing. It gives us data by which to assess the confidence of our probability estimates.  Or does it?

That is the question addressed herein -- how confident are we? 

The question may cause some to sweat, bringing memories of Comprehensive Oral exams at TPS or flashback of basic stats class from college, but the heuristics proposed herein should reduce the anxiety of the reader.  These rules will enable us, as a flight test community, to communicate about uncertainty even as we face more it in the years to come.

One last thing about Greg's paper: it's an excellent resource, and the FTSA recently generously shared it with members of our community. So get your hands on a copy and thank your colleagues down under

Finally, please continue to share this newsletter.  Let us know when you do, because we want to Reach Everyone (117%).  Send questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or any FTSC member.

Mark Jones Jr.

For added security and convenience, you can download the newsletter here.

Flight Test Safety Fact 19-07

It has been almost two months since the Flight Test Safety Workshop, and you can now find video presentations from the workshop posted on the website:  As you may recall, the Workshop provided our community with a chance to discuss "Data to Assure Success."  As I began to watch the videos, I encountered an amusing interchange:

Person A: "Your slide said SMS requires no oversight..."

You could almost hear the confusion in his voice.

Person B: "Excuse apologies. I speak Australian. What I meant was when you skip a step, you say it must have been an oversight, and we don't want any oversights.  With SMS, because we use methodical procedures, we won't overlook specific things."

As we can see, miscommunication happens even in the most mundane settings.  When we begin to discuss complexity and uncertainty, the risk of miscommunication increases.

To address this challenge, we reach back into the archive to revisit an old idea that we can apply to new problems.  The story contained herein illustrates a scenario where traditional statistical methods failed, and it lays the foundation for a future, more in-depth, discussion on "communicating uncertainty in flight test," an attempt to define heuristics for our community, to discuss both uncertainty and complexity in the days and years ahead.

Mark Jones Jr.

For added security and convenience, you can download the newsletter here.

Flight Test Safety Fact 19-06


In just a few short weeks the videos from the Flight Test Safety Workshop will be posted on the website.  Until that time you can read a message from the Chairman about the Workshop, give feedback, or find out who won the best paper.

You can also find some thoughtful analysis on our use of the 2D Risk Matrix in this month's edition of the Flight Test Safety Fact.

As always, please share it with others as we attempt to Reach Everyone, and send questions or feedback to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mark Jones Jr.

For your convenience, you can download the newsletter here.


Flight Test Safety Fact 19-05: Almost Time For The Annual Flight Test Safety Workshop

It's almost time for the annual Flight Test Safety Workshop, and this issue highlights what's in store. It also includes suggestions for making the most of your visit in Charleston with specific dining recommendations.  

If you are receiving this email, you have a great opportunity to meet people who are not SETP or SFTE members at the workshop and share this resource with them.  This edition also highlights many of the features of the FTSC website and how they complement the Workshop. Additionally, it includes a request from me, your editor, for feedback on the Workshop.

The final column solicits input for a future newsletter topic.  As this newsletter was going to print, I received a note from an editorial reviewer. His comment corrects a statement I made herein, but it also highlights the necessity of the research topic proposed. Here's what he said: "I personally wrote the SMS for the test wing at Pax back in 2008 (hard to believe it was that long ago). That was before it was required for operational and training units in the Navy and Marine Corps… Thank Tom Roberts who convinced me that the FAA AC 120-92 was worthy of consideration. What I don’t know is where SMS stands in our military establishment and in particular, in test and evaluation. I just don’t want us to misspeak if there is in fact some SMS activity out there." I hope you his read his comments and provide your input for this important research too.

As always, we would be delighted to hear from you, whether that's a request to be included on future mailings or even a complaint.  Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Mark Jones Jr.

For your convenience and added security, you can download the newsletter here.


FTSF 19-04: Airshows and Landing at Your Own Risk

As promised, this month’s edition of the Flight Test Safety Fact includes an editorial by LCDR Kurt Pfeffer (USCG).  “I had a brief chance to meet Tom Huff as he spoke to our class finishing up at USNTPS (June 2017) and at SETP events, but otherwise haven’t had any other contact with the FTSC.  I’m a former Marine and current Coastie, with a background in C-130, G100, and GV aircraft.” He hopes that you will get a chance to meet at the workshop in May.

In his editorial, Kurt succinctly collates the principles taught by others and describes how he applied them to an “elevated risk, low frequency” situation.  I am delighted to report that editorial reviewers have already praised his column, but sharing this medium with people like Kurt also advances our goal to Reach Everyone.  The outcome of his story is mundane precisely because it wasn’t catastrophic, but his suggestions also weave into the major theme of this month’s issue: Airshows.  

Airshows amaze us and polarize us. 

Over three thousand words have traveled to and fro, here and there, by way of the internet this past week.  Each of these words was the result of the newsletter you are about to read. Many people have reviewed its contents, and two main themes emerged.  One editorial group suggested that I rework the article to emphasize one theme.  Others found the newsletter thought-provoking as is. Both themes are important, but the mere volume of correspondence that these reflections stimulated are my reason for leaving it unchanged and perhaps unfinished.

I don’t know.  

That’s my answer, as you will find many questions in this edition.  Hopefully, a future edition will include some of the letters I received this week as well as an op-ed from those highlighted in the article.  

Please continue to send comments, feedback, suggestions, and letters to the editor to myself or Tom Huff, FTSC Chairman.

Mark Jones Jr.

For convenience and security, download the newsletter here.

There I Was - Flight Test Safety Fact 19-03

In what we can only describe as "serendipity", Flight Test Safety Committee chairman Tom Huff ran into Col Doug "Beaker" Wickert at a safety workshop in California, hosted by Northrop Grumman Corporation.  That meeting set off a series of conversations and emails that led to this month's column from Beaker himself. 

There's an analogy in there about random collisions...about how the collision of atoms can create an enormous amount of energy.  I won't belabor the point, but conversations and differing opinions and dialogue are exactly the outcomes that we intend to create by these short newsletters.  One editorial reviewer said, "Now I want to find out more about STPA."  That's exactly the kind of response for which I had hoped.

There are others letters coming in, and we will print them as soon as we can.  This month features the memories of a pilot who watched the accidental first flight of the YF-16 as the Supervisor of Flying (SOF).  He shares a story from an earlier time, when airplanes had variable sweep wings, and helmets had variable sweep visors.

Finally, you can find out about the FTSW dinner keynote speaker--register now and get the chance to hear a legend.


Mark Jones Jr.

For convenience and security, you can download this edition of the newsletter here.

Accidental First Flights Make Headlines - Flight Test Safety Fact 19-02

January 20th was the 45th anniversary of the accidental first flight of the YF-16.  This phenomenon is not new, but it seems like "some of us" have not learned our lesson yet, with accidental first flights recurring in the closing months of 2018.  Read more in this month's edition of the Flight Test Safety Fact, and then if you know either pilot, send them a copy of this newsletter as we continue to try to *reach everyone.*

This edition also documents more innovations and experiments in flight test safety with a report on STPA--if you don't know what this acronym means, you'll have to read "It Didn't Work", the second feature column in this month's edition. 

Finally, we share some of the great feedback we received from the first edition and the questions they raised.  Please continue to send feedback, suggestions, and requests for future newsletter topics to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Mark Jones Jr.

For added convenience and security, you can download the newsletter pdf here.

New Guidance Document Added Under the Recommended Practices Tab

Fellow flight test professionals, on behalf of your Flight Test Safety Committee (FTSC), I wanted to direct your attention to a new guidance document added to the FTSC web site under the Recommended Practices tab (

This guidance document details recommended practices related to the use of recorders during flight test and was prompted by a NTSB Recommendation following the fatal Bell 525 flight test mishap of July 2016. This guidance accommodates the spectrum of flight test operations and the advantages of recorders to enhance flight test safety and execution (underpinned as a test data capture requirement, not just accident/incident causation tools).  The FTSC highly encourages the adoption of the recommended practices within test organization and/or program SOPs and policies.  We welcome any feedback on this guidance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In your service,

Tom Huff
Flight Test Safety Committee

New Flight Test Safety Committee Chairman Announced

At the conclusion of the Flight Test Safety Workshop in May, Mr. Jerry Whites announced that after five years of service, he would be stepping down as Committee Chairman. Whites will remain on the Committee and has "passed the stick" onto Mr. Tom Huff.

FTSC Jerry Tom 2017

(L-R) Jerry Whites and New FTSC Chairman Tom Huff

Checklists to Enhance Safety Article

Please click here to read an article by our recent 2017 Flight Test Safety Workshop Tutorial presenters, William Higgins and Daniel Boorman.

Or you may download the full detailed article here.