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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedA380 test pilot also an EAAer
By Randy Dufault, EAA AirVenture Today

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 Association.

“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 Michigan.

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 Spitfire.

“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 the landing.

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 jacket.”

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.

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