US Air Force Total In-Flight Simulator Makes Final Flight to Museum
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, Nov. 17, 2008 -- A piece of aviation history was retired and transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB Nov. 7.
The 1955 Convair C-131, known as the Total-In-Flight Simulator (TIFS) made its final flight to the museum, ending a lifetime of more than 2,500 research flights and a legacy of advancing many of the flight technologies that are integral to today's Air Force. Prior to its retirement, the TIFS was the oldest operating aircraft in the Air Force inventory.
After a retirement ceremony at the Niagara Falls International Airport, N.Y., the TIFS was flown to Wright-Patterson AFB, where it took its final flight to Area B runway adjacent to the world's largest military aviation museum, where it will eventually be placed on display.
For more than 30 years, the TIFS served as a highly versatile in-flight simulator, allowing pilots to completely replicate the flight characteristics of many different types and configurations of aircraft. In addition, it facilitated research into flying qualities, avionics, and displays.
According to Vince Raska, Air Force Research Laboratory program manager, the research that was achieved through the use of the TIFS provided Air Force program managers with a higher level of confidence in a concept's design, utility, and pilot acceptance than would have been possible through ground simulation techniques.
TIFS remained an active research vehicle, performing simulation flights until its retirement.
The TIFS is a one-of-a-kind simulator, in both capabilities and appearance. One look at the TIFS reveals two unique features, the sideforce generators on the wings and the dual piggybacked cockpits.
The sideforce generators allowed TIFS to simulate an aircraft's six degrees-of-freedom (pitch, roll, yaw, lift, thrust and sideforce) all the way to touchdown, something no other U.S. in-flight simulator can do today.
The dual cockpits allowed test pilots to fly from the lower one, which served as the simulation cockpit during testing, while the upper one housed two safety pilots who monitored the simulations and the aircraft's normal controls and systems. These safety pilots were also capable of taking control of the vehicle if needed.
However, the unique qualities of the TIFS extend far beneath the surface. The nose of the TIFS was easily replaceable, giving it the flexibility necessary to simulate many different types of aircraft and actual flight hardware. The vehicle also featured a large cabin, which provided room for additional test equipment or pilot and engineering crews.
The TIFS has played a pivotal role in developing many of the Air Force weapon systems and technologies of today. Over the years, the TIFS has simulated both military and commercial aircraft such as the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, Space Shuttle and the Boeing Supersonic Transport.
"After talking with many of the people involved with TIFS over the years, it's easy to see that the TIFS provided decades of critical simulation test results vital to aircraft research," said Mr. Raska. "Its role in advancing the acceptance of aircraft technologies made it the ultimate tool in the aircraft developer's and researcher's toolbag."
In the coming months, the TIFS will be prepared for preservation at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration hangar. A ceremony is planned at the museum when the vehicle is placed on display.
(Report by Holly Jordan, Air Force Research Laboratory Air Vehicles Directorate.)
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