A unique aircraft has just retired -'the NC-131H Total In-Flight Simulator (TIFS) owned by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and operated by Calspan. With its unmistakable profile, the heavily modified Convair 580 made its last flight on Nov. 7 from'Niagara Falls'to the Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
It's hard to understate the contribution the TIFS has made to aircraft design. With the ability to simulate the cockpit environment and control responses of'virtually any'type of air vehicle, the TIFS has played a role in programs ranging from the B-1 and C-17 to the X-29 and X-40. It has simulated the flying qualities of Tacit Blue, the Space Shuttle, a supersonic transport and a million-pound aircraft.
Conceived in the late 1950s to help with design of the hypersonic X-20 DynaSoar, the TIFS was launched in 1966 as a joint USAF/FAA program. The aircraft was to have two interchangeable noses:'one a general-purpose'proboscis for what became the B-1 program; one the droop snoot of a civil SST, which was never built because the program was cancelled. The TIFS started flying in 1968, direct-lift and side-force controls providing the ability to adjust its handling characteristics.
Calspan has a great history of its in-flight simulation work on its website. It started in 1949 with a Vought F4U-5 Corsair modified with an auxiliary rudder to vary yaw stability, and continues today with'the company's'variable-stability Learjets and the VISTA F-16 based at the USAF Test Pilot School and supported by Calspan."