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The flight test book review thread

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The flight test book review thread

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Old 11th Nov 2014, 19:52
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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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Old 17th May 2016, 19:03
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I have recently read the book: Initial Airworthiness, Determining the Acceptability of New Airborne Systems, by Guy Gratton.

I found it to be an excellent gathering together of the various aspects of aircraft design, certification and testing. This is certainly a "must read" for students of aircraft design, and those who intend to flight test an aircraft.

Each of the important areas of design and certification are discussed, though some at an introductory level (as I'm sure the author intended), and much more detailed study would be possible, should the reader wish to pursue a specific topic.

The reader will finish the book with many of those "why do they do it that way?" questions answered, yet an appetite for more detail too. The book does not center on any particular class of aeroplane, but rather discusses airworthiness aspects of a broad range of aeroplanes, which further helps the reader appreciate differences to be considered.

The author provide numerous "side bars" to explain associated factors, and fill in the background of some information.

Lots of reference information and tables are provided, which will make the book a good reference book for future work, rather than a one time read. I cannot think of another aeroplane design or flight test book I have read which draws together important information as well as this book does.

I highly recommend this book!
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Old 27th Nov 2016, 19:19
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igo2fly, if you would like to start a thread here with your question, that would be fine. Your question was not a good fit in the flight test book review thread.

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Old 28th Nov 2016, 11:10
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I've read part one and have only just gotten my hands on part two, but Ken Ellis' "Testing to the Limits" deserves a mention if you ask me:
Testing to the Limits: British Test Pilots Since 1910 - volume 1, Addicott to Humble

Testing to the Limits: British Test Pilots Since 1910 - volume 2, James to Zurakowski

This seems to be the first book (or rather books) to cover the many test pilots that supported the British aviation industry. It includes short (and some longer) biographies of all mentioned pilots but also a few longer articles about the changing role of the test pilot throughout the years. Ellis has included all the pilots who either performed the first flight on a type or who gave their lives in the course of their work. That obviously means that not everyone is included, many production test pilots had to be left out for example, but this is still a very comprehensive book. It is also extensively illustrated to show the many different types flown throughout the years.
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Old 2nd Dec 2016, 20:11
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I saw this article linked elsewhere, and thought a post here would be appropriate. It describes the book: Initial Airworthiness, Determining the Acceptability of New Airborne Systems, by Guy Gratton.

https://scontent-ort2-1.xx.fbcdn.net...0c&oe=58B1239E
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Old 7th Oct 2018, 05:30
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A couple more good reference books with lots of info that may interest people in Flight Test are....

1) British Prototype Aircraft by Ray Sturtivant ISBN 1-85648-221-9
2) The X Planes - X1 to X31 by Jay Miller ISBN 0-517-56749-0

Both books are of the "table top reference" type with lot's of photographs, flight records and incident records.

(ps) note for Pilot DAR,..... Maurice Rose'meyer (who's books you mentioned above) celebrated his 90th birthday on the 22 Sep 2018
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Old 7th Oct 2018, 12:49
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Welcome Flt Tester,

I hope that Maurice is doing well. I have never met him, though a number of my DHC friends have told me many stories about him!
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