Evaluation of airborne systems has taken generations of Aviation Week pilots, engineers and editors aloft. On the surface, “system evaluations” would suggest they are more benign than flights devoted to wringing out a new aircraft for a full-blown pilot report. Not always. Several have involved a few moments of stark terror that surface during hangar-flying sessions—tales that begin, “There I was. . . .” On takeoff for a night flight dedicated to seeing the ...

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