July 30, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Terry Lutz jumped at the chance when Airbus Industries sought to add an
American to its cadre of test pilots in Toulouse, France.
“My wife and I are empty-nesters, so to
speak, and we had lived in Europe when I was in the Air Force, so it was
an easy decision,” Lutz said. “We looked at it as an opportunity to
learn a new culture.”
Lutz, the copilot of the Airbus A380 parked on
AeroShell Square, is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, a
long-time test pilot and a former Airbus captain with Northwest Airlines.
He made the connection with Airbus on earlier
trips to France flying aircraft evaluations for the Air Line Pilot’s
“Airbus has quite a multinational flight
test organization,” Lutz said. “There are pilots from Britain,
Germany, France, one from Spain, and, of course, the U.S.”
Lutz, an EAA member, now lives in France and
admitted that one big downside to the living arrangement is that he can
only fly the Van’s RV-8 he built when he visits his prior home base in
Lutz flew the plane from Michigan here to
Oshkosh in June, and it is displayed in the shadow of the A380.
Keeping up with experimental aviation and
homebuilding while in Europe has not been a problem.
“I am helping two good friends with projects
in France,” Lutz said. “One is an RV-8 and the other is an 80% replica
“I swap weekends helping them out drilling
holes and bucking rivets.” Lutz has not had an opportunity yet to fly
anything smaller than an Airbus in France.
“I have my French endorsement and I actually
hope to go flying shortly,” he said.
He should have plenty of company.
“Like with any large aircraft manufacturer
the people that work for Airbus are passionate about aviation,” Lutz
said. “Many of the engineers in the flight test department are pilots
and like to go flying on the weekends” .
GA flying in France is generally more of a
challenge and more expensive than it is in the United States.
“Most of the flying is done in clubs,” he
said. “There are 15 clubs within 30 miles of Toulouse.
One of the current test programs Lutz is
deeply involved with is a program Airbus calls Brake to Vacate or BTV. The
purpose of BTV is to tell the aircraft which taxiway will be used before
After touchdown, the automatic systems will
apply reverse thrust and very smooth braking, ultimately leaving the
aircraft at a taxi speed of 10 knots just before the turn off.
When asked about the flying qualities of the
A380, Lutz compared it to being somewhere between the narrow-body A320 and
the wide-body A330.
“Others may have a different opinion,” he
said. “I think it has the feel of a much smaller, more nimble airplane.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I can precisely do any test I am
asked to do, without making any compensation for size or weight.
“Flying [the A380] is very straightforward
and feels very comfortable. I compare it to putting on your favorite
Lutz has had an opportunity to fly the craft
at a weight of 1.22 million pounds. Those flights, most recently as a part
of performance testing for the A380 simulator data package, required
flying within very tight parameters.
“You have to be cautious at that sort of
weight,” Lutz said. “Landings need to happen with a 3- to
5-foot-per-second descent rate or you could damage the landing gear.
“You also have to be careful with the brakes
so we use reverse thrust and minimum braking. You don’t want to
interrupt a 12-hour test flight day by having to wait 45 minutes for the
brakes to cool.”
A flight demonstration is planned when the
A380 departs during the Friday air show.
Until then, the A380 is open for walkthrough
tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow.