Research aircraft fleet


The NRC maintains a fleet of highly specialized and customizable rotary and fixed-wing research aircraft to assist industry with the testing and demonstration of aeronautical technologies in the areas of airborne research, flight mechanics and avionics. Our facilities are also used to support pilot education and certifications.

Our aircraft are housed in Ottawa but we travel all over the world to meet our clients' needs.

Our capabilities

The NRC's fleet of aircraft includes:

Bell 412 (4-DOF airborne simulator)

The NRC Bell 412 Advanced Systems Research Aircraft (ASRA) is configured as a 4-DOF simulator for research in airborne simulation, handling qualities, advanced controls, active controls, pilot-vehicle interfaces and aircraft systems. ASRA is outfitted with advanced technology that makes it an ideal platform for research into digital fly-by-wire control systems, precise guidance and navigation, and active control systems. Advanced fly-by-wire features give ASRA a powerful variable stability and control capability, and an airborne simulation capability for air vehicle design and operational research and development.

As a sophisticated research test bed, ASRA allows researchers to investigate the impact on situational awareness, safety and mission performance of new control, guidance, navigation and communication technologies. The aircraft also serves to test advanced pilot-vehicle interfaces such as smart displays, helmet-mounted displays, synthetic vision systems, integrated hand controllers, and direct voice input.

Bell 205 (4-DOF airborne simulator)

The highly modified fly-by-wire Bell 205A helicopter is configured as a 4-DOF simulator for research in airborne simulation, handling qualities and advanced controls, pilot-vehicle interfaces and aircraft systems. The Bell 205 Airborne Simulator is outfitted with single axis full authority fly-by-wire controls, programmable inceptors and a force-sensing side arm that makes it an ideal platform for research into digital fly-by-wire control systems and human interface issues.

As a sophisticated research test bed, the Bell 205 Airborne Simulator allows researchers to investigate the impact on situational awareness, safety and mission performance of advanced pilot-vehicle interfaces such as smart displays, helmet-mounted displays, synthetic vision systems, integrated hand controllers, and direct voice input.

The aircraft includes a sophisticated graphics display capability, a close support computing system for software development and testing, and a special display development facility (DDF) for ground-based validation of advanced cockpit technologies to be demonstrated in the airborne simulator.

Bell 206 (single-engine helicopter)

The Bell 206B is a single-engine, teetering rotor, light-utility helicopter with dual flight controls and provisions for two research crews in the back seat, including an instrumented flight test engineering station. The NRC proprietary modular instrumentation architecture facilitates easy installation of additional channels for specific experimental requirements. Data from the Bell 206 instrumentation package has been used in the development of simulation facilities for the military and for private industry goggles as well as testing new avionics systems such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast units.

The Bell 206 plays a significant role in human factors research in the evaluation of new cockpit technologies, including helmet mounted displays and night vision. It has been equipped with night-vision-goggle (NVG) compatible lighting and serves as a test platform for night vision goggles and related systems for military, law enforcement, regulatory authorities, and others.

Convair 580 (twin-engine aircraft)

The Convair 580 is a twin-engine, pressurized aircraft capable of long distance operation carrying several racks of instrumentation and up to a dozen research crew members. It is also a multi-purpose flying laboratory supporting projects in atmospheric studies (low-level smog in urban areas, cloud physics, cloud chemistry, aircraft icing), gradient aeromagnetics, advanced navigation, spotlight synthetic aperture radar and precision aircraft positioning using differential global positioning system (DGPS) techniques.

The aircraft also features a suite of standard research support capabilities that include high-speed data acquisition systems, multi-camera video recording systems, free-stream chemistry sampling inlets, multiple navigation sensors, high bandwidth data-link communications, electro-optic and infrared sensors, wing-mounted pylons, and wingtip-mounted pods.

Extra 300L (aerobatic aircraft)

The Extra 300L is a two-seat, dual control, low-wing, aerobatic certified aircraft. The Extra cruises at 200 mph at 75 percent power at 4,000 feet, with a range of around 400 nm.

It has been outfitted with an instrumentation package making it an ideal low cost platform to support general aviation initiatives and to conduct research and/or training with equipment and personnel within its impressive flight envelope that includes a maximum speed of VNE 220 knots and up to ±10g load limits.

This aircraft is also used as a test bed for unmanned air systems and it is uniquely suitable for testing instrumentation targeted for unmanned aircraft vehicles capable of extreme manoeuvrability and load limits. Additional targeted use includes aeromedical and neurocognitive research, qualitative evaluation aircraft for test pilot school courses, unusual attitude awareness and recovery training and research, and aerodynamics research (spin modeling).

Falcon 20 (twin-engine business jet)

The Falcon 20 is a twin-engine business jet, capable of relatively high speed and altitude operations with a small complement of instrumentation and research crew. It has been modified for use in microgravity experiments requiring parabolic flight trajectories and equipment operating for periods at low g. With an extensive onboard data acquisition system, the aircraft can also be used for airborne geosciences studies, avionics research and aircraft based sensor research.

This aircraft is also equipped with separate feeder tanks from which the pilots can select different fuels for each flight segment, allowing for a portion of a flight to take place with an experimental fuel that may only be available in limited quantities. This capability makes it an ideal vehicle to support our clients' alternative fuels research.

Harvard (single-engine propeller aircraft)

The Harvard is a post-war single-engine propeller aircraft used extensively by the Royal Canadian Air Force for flight training. It is capable of high-g "aerobatic" manoeuvers and carries 2 pilots and an advanced instrumentation package in the rear seat. Its flying qualities make it an ideal demonstrator for out-of-control recovery technique training and the rear cockpit can be modified to host advanced avionic displays. The unique display capability allows prototyping and assessment of novel and unique flight display technologies to aircrew in a broad range of flight conditions.

Twin Otter (twin-engine turboprop aircraft)

The Twin Otter aircraft is a twin-engine, unpressurized turboprop high wing STOL aircraft capable of 2-3 hour operations with a moderate amount of instrumentation. It is also a world-class, fully instrumented airborne platform for a wide range of atmospheric and biospheric studies, and for flight mechanics and flight systems development.

Research equipment installations on this aircraft include real-time digital computing and displays, modern navigation and guidance systems, state-of-the-art air data sensing, a control surface position measurement system, incident and reflected solar radiation systems, weather radar, video recording suite, laser particle spectrometers, electro-optic and infrared sensors systems, and a satellite simulator.

T-33 (vintage fighter jet)

The T-33 is a 1960s vintage "fighter" jet used extensively by the air force for flight training requirements. It is capable of high performance, high altitude operations with 2 pilots and a small instrument package.

This high-speed (to 500 KIAS), high G (-3.0 to +7.33), fully instrumented research aircraft is equipped for pressure standard calibrations (precise in-flight static pressure measurement), in-flight turbulence measurement (accurate three-axis gust measurement) and flight mechanics research (accurate measurement of aircraft motion versus control input).

Why work with us

The NRC is a well established flight testing centre with decades of experience and world-class expertise to support industry in bringing new technologies to market more rapidly while meeting forthcoming regulatory and environmental standards. We support Canadian avionics manufacturers on advanced technologies that will be used in next-generation aircraft and modern helicopter cockpits. Side-arm controllers, programmable head down displays, speech I/O and helmet-mounted displays are some of the technologies being demonstrated and perfected in our realistic airborne simulator.

We are constantly developing and improving the on-board installations of our aircraft to meet the latest technological needs of our clients, putting them at the forefront of aeronautical research. All of our aircraft are supported by an experienced technical team who conduct focused and responsive airborne research and experimentation.

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Contact us

Business Development Team
Aerospace Research Centre


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