Boeing's T-7A Red Hawk trainer jet flies upside down for the first time
Boeing's T-7A Red Hawk Advanced trainer has passed another milestone, with a test prototype flying upside down for the first time. Flown by Boeing Test & Evaluation pilots Matt Giese and William Berryman, the trainer jet flew inverted over a dozen times in maximum afterburner.
Flying upside-down may seem a bit like a stunt, but for aerospace engineers, it fulfills a very serious purpose. Fighter jets and trainers have to be able to handle high g-forces in tight maneuvers, which not only affect the airframe, but also the many engine systems that keep the aircraft aloft. Inverted flying, especially with the engines running flat-out is, therefore, an important performance test.
"What we do is roll the airplane upside down," says Dan Draeger, chief pilot, Boeing Tactical Aircraft, Boeing Test & Evaluation. "We need to make sure that things like fuel, oil, and everything else feeds properly to the airplane during all maneuvers."
According to Boeing, the test series went as planned and the Saab-designed fuel system performed to specifications. However, flying full blast while upside down did have its drawbacks.
"We roll to an inverted position and push to negative one-g, so it’s a little uncomfortable. You're kind of hanging in your seat straps inside the cockpit," says Giese.
The T-7A Red Hawk is being developed by Boeing and Saab under a US Air Force US$9.2 billion dollar contract for an initial order of 351 aircraft and 46 simulators, plus ground equipment, to replace the US Air Force's aging fleet of half-century-old T-38 Talon trainers.
The T-7A Red Hawk has twin tails for greater maneuverability and a high angle of attack, stadium seating, an advanced cockpit with embedded training systems and boasts a number of features for fast and easy maintenance.
"It’s a great training lead-in to the current fighter fleet," says Giese. "It could serve multiple roles as a light attack or other fighter in many missions."
The video below discusses the recent test flights.