Merlin completes certification system bench build



Merlin has completed design and construction of its certification system bench, a flight simulator built to allow the firm to test its automation systems in-house. 

Designed and developed to the fidelity required for certification testing, acting as a one-to-one replica of Merlin’s in-flight technology. Unlike traditional in-flight testing, the bench can be used irrespective of weather, maintenance schedules and pilot availability. It features cameras that provide remote accessibility and testing abilities for Merlin’s global team, and also includes three screens that represent the pilot deck as well as accurate instrument panels and primary flight displays.

The system has been likened to a funnel by Sherif Ali, chief engineer for the certified Merlin Pilot project. “It allows us to test hundreds of cases with speed and ease, selecting edge cases to take to in-flight testing. As a result, we’re able to reduce the use of our test aircraft and keep it for limited cases only.

“With pilots on the certification system bench, we are able to learn multitudes about human factors while gaining accreditation towards our STC [supplemental type certification]. This was a material investment for the company, which is wise. No other company in the sector has put more resources towards this type of testing simulator, but we see it as critical in order to exceed our certification timeline targets.” 

As Ali notes, ground tests using the bench will expedite Merlin’s path towards its STC because they are accredited by regulatory authorities. 

Matt George, CEO and founder, Merlin added: “Ensuring the Merlin Pilot is robust, safe, and reliable is our top priority, which underscores this system bench build as a huge milestone in Merlin’s certification journey. It took the team six months to design, vet solutions for, and build the certification system bench to extremely stringent specifications. While the simulator costs millions of dollars more than our actual aircraft, it can run continuously and without constraints to collect data that rapidly accelerates our certification programme.”