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Old 11th Nov 2014, 19:52
  #21 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: UK
Posts: 1,085
The quick and the dead - the perils of post-war test flying

Its an old book written in 1955, first published in 1956 although re-printed more recently by Grub Street.

Through the excellent archives at Flight you can read what was made of the book here:-

javelin | folland aircraft | 1956 | 1033 | Flight Archive

westland widgeon | 1956 | 1057 | Flight Archive

It certainly made an impact at the time and I'm not sure anything has been written quite as candidly since.

I'm sure Waterton needs no introduction here but he was Chief test pilot for The Gloster Aircraft Company, working for the company from 1946 until 1954 (becoming chief test pilot in 1947). The book focuses upon three aircraft that Waterton was heavily involved. The Gloster Meteor, Javelin and also the Avro CF-100.

The timing of the book probably best explains its tone which has been written with the heart on his sleeve. It certainly gives the impression that for reasons not made obvious in the book Waterton was clearly not fully respected at Gloster and one suspects that he was unable to play the political game very well. A man whose first loyalty was to his fellow pilot he seemed very comfortable at going around the company directly to the customer (in this case the ministry of supply) to make his feelings known. No doubt this played its part in the destruction of the relationship.

In the end one can't help feeling an element of sadness at the way you can see the endless bridge blowing coming to its obvious conclusion, and I'm not sure if Waterton really saw it coming. Certainly when the company finally let him go I don't think that was the outcome he wanted but sadly it was a situation impossible to recover from.

A very interesting period and from a unique perspective in that it was written by a man who had resigned himself not to work in the industry again and so to hell with the consequences!
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