Aircraft Control Surface Evaluation Testing


Isolated Control Panels, Empennage tests are conducted to better understand the basic and combined high speed control effectiveness and sizing of ailerons, spoilers, speed brakes, elevators, stabilizer, rudder, etc. If these aircraft control surfaces are too large and drag increases, the control surface becomes less efficient. If too small, the control surface may not be effective in-flight. Therefore, aerodynamicists utilize this test technique to properly size and optimize their control surfaces.

In this test mode, Calspan configures a model with a wing section and aileron/flap arrangement or, in the case of elevators/rudder evaluations, configures with the entire empennage of the air vehicle. Along with manually adjustable aircraft components, remotely deflectable control surfaces are often incorporated to study flight control logic and performance. Within this test technique, the following test objectives can be achieved:

  • Establish aircraft control surface sizing and effectiveness at high speed and various incidence angles.
  • Obtain trim tab characteristics and sizing.
  • Hinge gap effects.
  • Check flow quality on the surface(s) at high speed using visualization techniques.
  • Examine Reynolds number effects particularly high Reynolds/Low Mach Number excursions.
  • Obtain pressure distribution data across the surface.
Twt Passenger Empennage Gallery3


Calspan has experience in testing isolated control surfaces that are instrumented for pressure and/or force. Data from these surfaces allow the Aerodynamicist to build on flight control parameters and loads analyses for the aircraft. Calspan can execute these tests in order to determine a control surface’s effect on the overall model’s performance/stability and control through a range of model incidences, Mach numbers and Reynolds numbers.