Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Paul A. Blue, PhD


Cooper-Harper ratings (CHRs) have been used to describe and compare aircraft handling qualities for over 40 years, but are by their very nature, subjective. The subjective and sometimes ambiguous results obtained from qualitative handling quality ratings are inconsistent with the rest of the flight test process, where quantifiable results followed by statistical analysis are the norm. This thesis presents a method for obtaining accurate and consistent flight test data that quantifies the handling qualities of a specific aircraft. The method is demonstrated using both pilot-in-the-loop simulations and flight tests with the NF-16D Variable-Stability In-Flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA). Boundary Avoidance Tracking (BAT), introduced in 2004 by Mr. William Gray III, a test pilot at the US Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS), is used here to provide a novel approach for forcing an increase in pilot workload and tracking performance in order to assess an aircraft’s handling qualities. By utilizing BAT with shrinking desired performance boundaries on a point tracking task, pilots are forced to their maximum performance (i.e. minimum error) on the tracking task. This maximum achievable BAT performance can then be used as a measure of the aircraft’s handling “quality”. The BAT method of assessing an aircraft’s handling quality was used with both pilot-in-the-loop simulations and flight tests to obtain quantitative tracking performance data. This data was compared and correlated to CHR data. In order to collect the data, a 6-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) pilot-in-the-loop F-16 simulator was developed and implemented on a desktop computer. Twenty seven test subjects flew the BAT profile on the desktop simulator; these subjects also flew the same profile in AFRL/VA’s Infinity Cube simulator. Data from these two simulations were used to develop a flight test plan for implementation on AFRL/VA’s Large Amplitude Multi-mode Aerospace Research Simulator (LAMARS) and on TPS’s NF-16D VISTA. Seven test subjects then flew a modified BAT profile on the desktop simulator, the LAMARS, and 13.7 flight hours in the VISTA. Data collected included tracking and boundary information, as well as CHRs for each of four different pitch control models. Results supporting the existence of boundary awareness were found, as well as a correlation between total bounded simulation run time and Cooper-Harper rating.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number