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The flight test book review thread

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The flight test book review thread

Old 27th Jan 2009, 12:30
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The Flight Test Book Review Thread

This is the thread for us to post book reviews. For anything like this, we need a few ground rules, so here they are:

(1) Books must have some relation to flight testing. However, this could be textbooks, biographies, histories, technical manuals, even appropriate works of fiction.

(2) There is no maximum length limit, but anything very short is probably unhelpful - say something meaningful.

(3) Duplicate reviews are fine, if you feel that you have something new to say.

(4) If you are the author, you must say so. If this would compromise your PPrune anonymity - create another identity to post the review.

(5) Please start each review with the title, author(s), and (if there is one) ISBN number. If you can, please also include the price and link to somewhere it can be purchased, if it's still in print, or downloaded if it's available online.

(6) If you are going to criticise books (or praise them), back it up with clear reasons, but strong criticism is no reason not to post. Reviews will however be moderated on grounds of over-shortness, illiteracy, irrelevance to flight testing or personal abuse. Those are the only reasons I hope that there should be any need to moderate.

(7) Please don't post discussion about reviews in this thread. Either post an alternative review, or create a new thread for discussion about a particular book.

Needless to say, this post will remain a sticky at the top of the page - please everybody make good use of it.
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Old 4th Feb 2009, 01:08
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A posting on this excellent thread is overdue, so I shall begin...

I have just finished reading: Back to the Drawing Board, Aircraft Which Flew, But Never Tookoff, by: Bill Gunston. ISBN 0-7603-0316-9

I just purchased it as a used book, from the Museum of Aviation in Ottawa, but I am certain it was the only copy there, and not in their normal stock. It was suspiciously low priced at $10, worth much more!

I have very much enjoyed it, and recommend it.

It provides brief descriptions of the characteristics of about 90 types of fixed and rotor wing aircraft, from all eras and nations. There are detailed insights as the reasons why the particular aircraft was not a success in it's intended application. In many cases, the failing was design related, and revealed during initial testing. The author's description of some of the simple characteristics which were inadequate, is helpful in furthering the understanding of aircraft and cockpit design. An example of this is a reference to a particular aircraft being difficult to fly, because certain secondary cockpit controls were located on the wrong side, so crossing hands on the controls was necessary, at the least opportune phases of flight. Anyone involved in design and testing would surely appreciate this random insights.

Thanks for the thread Genghis, it's a great idea! I'll have more entries in the times to come...

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Old 21st Feb 2009, 07:17
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I would very strongly recommend ' Test Pilots - The History of British Test Flying 1903 - 84 ' by Don Middleton, Collins Willow press, ISBN 0-00-218098-7.

The late D.Middleton was a pilot himself, and a very good author - this book is simply the best of it's type I have ever come across by a very wide margin.

It is never over-sensational, while comprehensively covering the story of how Test Flying developed, citing some quite remarkable feats and escapes ( and the inevitable tragedies ) while using them not just to entertain, but to drive home in a slightly understated way just what risks and achievements have been accomplished, both by aircrew and design & engineering staff - along with less successful projects.

The book is out of print, but fairly easily available at the usual places for quite reasonable amounts ( I have given secondhand copies to several people, who seem to agree with me ).

Perhaps an idea of my opinion of it is, if suffering a fire, it would be the first book I would grab to save, and I am constantly referring to it now I'm a museum volunteer !

' Tests of Character, Epic Flights by Legendary Test Pilots ' by the same author, Airlife, ISBN 1-85310-481-7 is very similar, and also very good, inevitably with some duplication - I'd say get both, but if only one, it has to be ' Test Pilots '.
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Old 22nd Feb 2009, 18:43
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The First Jet Pilot

The First Jet Pilot – the story of German test pilot Erich Warsitz, by Lutz Warsitz (his son)
Pen & Sword ISBN 978-1-84415-818-8

This book tells the extraordinary story of how the world’s first rocket and jet-propelled aircraft were built and flown, just before the second world war. Much of it is written in the first person from Erich Warsitz’s notes, backed up by interviews of Erich and other key personnel by his son. Working closely with Von Braun, Von Ohain and Dr Heinkel, Warsitz volunteered to fly the first trials of a spectacularly unstable experimental rocket motor, installed in the rear of a He 112.

Next comes the really scary part of the story: the He 176, which became the first aircraft to fly by rocket power alone in March 1939. Warsitz tells how this tiny aircraft was built around him, with a cockpit so small that he could only operate the switches on the opposite side from his arms. The seating position was semi reclined to cope with the expected G forces, and the cockpit was designed to separate if the pilot needed to abandon the aircraft. The sequence of actions required to separate the cockpit then escape from it by parachute would have required far more altitude than the aircraft ever attained in practice. The aircraft flew a number of short flights from Peenemunde, and was demonstrated to Hitler and his generals, but Udet considered the flights too dangerous and stopped the programme.

Warsitz went on to make the first flights of the He178 – the world’s first jet powered aircraft – in August 1939, just before the outbreak of war. The book briefly touches on Warsitz’s later career. After a spell of instructing, a flying accident and health problems forced him to devote his time to a family engineering business for the remainder of the war. At the end of the war he was kidnapped by the Russians. He refused to cooperate with their work on rockets and jet so suffered harsh conditions in Siberia until his release in 1950. He died in 1983.
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Old 26th Feb 2009, 01:43
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The Wrong Stuff, by John Moore

The Wrong Stuff is a short read by the late Cdr John Moore, USN.

Moore begins his book telling the story of being on the carrier USS Essex with a Banshee coming in with an emergency. Moore's squadron was flying Panthers and on the straight deck, they had to taxi the airplanes clear for the Banshee to land. Moore was in the cockpit when the Banshee landed long, hot and crashed into the Panthers on the forward deck. Moore was not only burned but tossed overboard into the water 70ft below. He was fortunate. Many did not survive.

Moore writes about flying such machines as the F7U "Gutless" and how the first models were so underpowered, the final turn to the carrier was made with occasional punches of the afterburner (reheat) to maintain speed. In a later chapter Moore writes about landing a Cutlass that has the nosegear collapse. When this happens, the fuselage breaks just aft the cockpit. Moore is tossed forward and with his hands on the throttles, they are slammed into burner. When the fuselage breaks, the throttle linkage is destroyed so the Cutlass is in burner and beginning to move. Moore is able to get out of the airplane before it takes on a life of its own, catches fire and is destroyed. Everyone is sure Moore is dead... but he has once again escaped.

Moore writes about flying Hellcats, Bearcats, Tigercats and is in one of the first Navy units to get the Lockheed F-80 renamed the TO-1. He is an instructor.

He later joins North American and flies the RA-5C Vigilante, the T-2 Buckeye as well as the FJ-4 Fury. He is also around when the fire kills three astronauts in the Apollo program. Like many mid-level managers, he gets sacked in the clean sweep after the accident. Moore died in the late 1990s.

The book is a quick read and Moore's insight to the dangers of test flight, his comments on various machines and his overall view of life makes for a decent read.

published 1997 by Special Press Publishers
ISBN 1-883809-10-x

Last edited by Genghis the Engineer; 26th Feb 2009 at 11:24. Reason: tidyness.
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Old 26th Feb 2009, 11:42
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Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

Eugene. F. "Gene" Kranz. (Former NASA flight director.)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Publishing Corporation,U.S.; Reissue edition (May 2001)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0425179877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425179871
Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond Thorndike Paperback Bestsellers: Amazon.co.uk: Gene Kranz: Books Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond Thorndike Paperback Bestsellers: Amazon.co.uk: Gene Kranz: Books

Thoroughly absorbing account of the life and times of those involved in the early days of the space programme as related by probably the greatest of NASA's Flight Directors.
Whilst Kranz's book doesn't have the evocative prose and drama of Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" (Which I'm surprised hasn't been posted on here yet!) it does contain a wealth of technical information in an easy-to-understand format.

Reading this book certainly gives you an impression of what it must have been like to have worked on a test flying project of a completely unknown nature. They were all learning as they went along and procedures evolved at an incredible pace.

Kranz takes us through his early days of flying the F-86 and F-100, through his Flight Test days on the F-101 Voodoo project and finally onto NASA and the now legendary Moon landings that marked the culmination of all the effort and hard work of those involved.

Not exactly written like a Dale Brown or a Tom Clancy, but all the better for it.I enjoyed it enormously. Well worth a punt.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 10:00
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Druid's Circle by Gp Capt H.W (Dixi) Dean A.F.C.

ISBN 0-9523023-3-0

Trained in the halcyon days of the '30s on Tigers, Atlas' and Siskins, Dixi Dean was posted to a bomber squadron equipped with the ludicrous HP Hinaidi and subsequently Heyfords. Specialising later in armaments he found himself at Martlesham Heath as the Second World War broke, as a Weapons Development Engineer.

At the end of Chamberlain's historic broadcast his CO told him to "get into that Blenhiem over there, go low level to Boscombe Down, and say nothing to anyone"...Despite protests that he'd never flown a Blenhiem before he did so, and set a trend that he'd follow for the rest of the war.

There followed a hectic five years taken up with solving the problems of fitting, sighting and operating eight guns into the thin wings of the new fighters, the even harder problem of making canons fit and work in that same space, the endless problems with feed machanisms that were so crucuial to the air war, and the long development of RPs, the unguided Rocket Projectiles that turned the Hurricane into, effectively, a 4 inch artillery battery, and the later Thunderbolt into something resembling a small battleship in terms of hitting power. The triumphs, disappointments, coincidences and miracles that all contributed to the Allied success in the war from the air are carefully documented, as well as the people involved.

All this with constant flight testing of his developments in new aircraft with never a check-out, just jump in, study the "taps" and go straight into a weapons test routine. He flew virtually every type the RAF operated, one engine or four, (and quite a few they didn't, including captured Luftwaffe types) and worked constantly at Boscombe and elsewhere, including a highly successful trip to the USA to co-ordinate the development of his beloved RPs and other weapons, flying all their new types as he went, as well as learning the new-fangled "radio range" system of navigation in corridors called "airways"...He even flew (illegally) on Operations in P47s, splashing Tiger tanks in Normandy to see how his weapons worked in the field!

This is a superbly well written book done with humour and panache, it has enough technical detail to fascinate, but not so much as to baffle or bore. His zest for flying, his family and the Service shines throughout.

This is a highly unusual book, a story of the back-room boys and how they interfaced with the front line. It's not short, 400 pages with notes and Bibliography, but irritatingly no index. It is, however, a ripping good read.

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Old 28th Dec 2009, 19:00
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Book on flight testing

I am the author of "Homebuilt Aerodynamics and Flight Testing", an introduction mostly intended for aircraft homebuilders or those who perform first flights on experimental aircraft. It covers basic aerodynamics and has a list of flight tests with test cards and descriptions on how to perform the tests and data reduction. There are also examples of how improvements can be made if the characteristics are not satisfactory. Because experimentals come in many configurations, brief descriptions about the most important characteristics of for example flying wings, pushers, canards, seaplanes, gliders, biplanes unusual twins etc. are included.

The book is available in the UK from the
LAA or in the US from my web site www.caro-engineering.com.

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Old 2nd Jan 2010, 06:21
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this is one of a set of handbooks introducing flight testing principles, theory and practice. I used the whole series for my USNTPS studies. It is thorough, and although including "preliminary" in its title page, is an updated version of a manual in use for decades. It should normally be downloadable as PDF from the TPS Alumni site, currently unavailable.

Written By:
Provided By:
Veda Incorporated
Contract N00421-90-C-0022
30 September 1992
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Old 25th Jan 2010, 01:19
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opherben reviewed:
It is now available at:
US Navy Flight Test Manual
and if that fails, PM me for a copy.
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Old 22nd Jun 2010, 09:06
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Helicopter Test and Evaluation, a Qinetiq sponsered book by Alistair K. Cooke & Eric WH Fitzpatrick.

Written by an ETPS flight test engineer and test pilot, with 25 yrs combined experience.

This book is aimed at helicopter test professionals, and in particular offers guidance on the thought processes involved and methods of approach to helicopter flight testing.
Saying that, it is definitely of use to others in the rotorcraft world who are looking for explanations as to why certain systems are designed the way they are and the limitations imposed on them.

The book is in four main sections:
An introduction to methods and aspects of test programmes.
Flight performance, including planning and data gathering.
Handling qualities, stability and control testing.
Systems, their assessment and failure testing.

Throughout, the theory of each topic is briefly explained and then followed up with practical details. These include safety, planning and the most efficient way to conduct the test. Where appropriate, typical test results are shown and explained. Where calculations are made to support these test results, the ‘example’ aircraft is loosely based on the Westland Lynx.

I have used this book as a reference for studies and work many times and have found it invaluable for in depth explanations of such subjects as rotor dynamics, engine governing and AFCS. Very much a book of not only how, but also why.

( Did I pass Genghis ?? You sound like my daughter's literacy teacher :-) )

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Old 12th Jul 2010, 10:06
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Hmmm, Genghis has raised the bar! (report writing is my weak point!)

I have just finished "Adventures in the Air", by Maurice Patrick Rose' Meyer. ISBN 9781896582146. I bought it in person, at the local airport to Mr. Meyer's residence. It seems to be easily available at various sellers on the internet.

It is the life story of a flight test engineer, who worked in the UK, and later in Canada. The story goes somewhat beyond the bounds of flying, in presenting many life experiences in growing up as a youth in India, and retirement in Canada.

The core of the content centers on early and intense flight testing of UK types including the Shakleton, Canberra, Seamew, and later the deHavilland Twin Otter, Buffalo, and other DHC exprimental types.

The author goes into great detail in presenting some of his experiences, and provides ample backgorund explanation for the reader. Some of the stories relate to testing in extreme environments (high altitude, for example), and there is certainly enough peripheral information in the story to understand the situation, and put the whole thing in context.

The book obviously describes the life of a person, which includes more than just aviation. Though this may seem somewhat out of place, to the intended audience of those interested in aviation, it none the less draws the reader in to it being a life we are reading about, not just airplanes.

As the stories are presented from the perspective of the flight test engineer, as opposed to the pilot, there is a refreshing perspective. We pilots are reminded that there are other vital duties being carried out, while we are flying, and we are really there to support a team in reaching the objective.

Throughout the book, the stories flow in apparent chronological order, though seem "choppy" from time to time. An event, though correct in time, will be described in apparent isolation to those stories surrounding it.

I enthusiastically recommend this book to people involved in flight test. It will serve as a fine basis for helping one determine if testing is safe and appropriate, and if the depth of investigation is what it should be for the required evaluation. It would also be of particular value to those planning high altitude testing, though I expect that "tribal knowledge" (partly gained during the tests described, I'm sure) is well established amonge those doing such testing at this point.

All in all, well worth the read....
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Old 15th Mar 2011, 15:34
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Not a review, but I hope you don't mind, Genghis.

I've just looked at this thread for the first time and in view of earlier comments, I would like to point out that the following PDFs are available from the USNTP Alumni website (http://www.usntpsalumni.org/html/library.html)

Theory and Flight Test Techniques




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Old 11th May 2011, 19:27
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Review Appreciation

I wish to thank PILOT DAR for hid review of my book "Adventure In The Air".
I have published another book called "Project Silver Bullet. The test and development of a futuristic fighter aircraft, that proves it's superiority in battle is the subject matter of this book that reaches out to the future. The books are available on Amazon and ebook distributers (Kindle,Apple iBooks,Soneyband Kobo).
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Old 14th Jun 2011, 03:39
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another book called "Project Silver Bullet.
Yes, I was looking at that while I was paying for my gas at Muskoka Airport today. I'll pick one up next time...

In the mean time, I'm overdue with two reviews.....
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Old 14th Jun 2011, 03:54
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I am overdue in presenting my review of two more books I have recently enjoyed:

The first is:

"Flight Testing Homebuilt Aircraft" by: Vaughan Askue, 2006, and published by ASA. ISBN# 1-56027-628-2 978-1-56027-628-9

I found this book to be amazing in it's simplicity, yet very effective clarity. It presents the concepts, and relevent elements in a very easy to understand format. It is certainly an easy read, and will be easily understood by any pilot. I would suggest that every pilot should read this book, as it answers some basic questions which come up on PPRuNe from time to time. There is nothing intimidating here.

It covers subjects including:

How to Begin, System Tests, Final Preparations, Taxi Tests, First Flight, Envelope Expansion, Stability, Control, Pitot Static System, Stall Spin Testing, Performance, Engine Cooling, and Conclusion.

There is nearly no math, it's all concepts, and good information which can be practically applied in testing, and any flying anywhere just outside the mainstream of straight and level. The reader will recognize the description of many features we see on aircraft, and come to understand why they are there, and their affect on the flight of the aircraft.

I recommend this book because it can be understood by, and will interest every pilot.
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Old 14th Jun 2011, 04:20
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Secondly, I will recommend;

FLight Testing Of Fixed Wing Aircraft, by Ralph Kimberlin, 2003, and published by American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronatics, ISBN 1-56347-564-2.

This book was provided to me during a flight test and performance course I took earlier this spring.

This book is the serious heavy math book, which handles all of the aspects of propeller (and some jet) fixed wing flight test. It certainly centers on the numbers and formula of flight test, with an emphasis on performance.

This book is not for the entry level pilot, and will bog down quickly if the reader does not have a good foundation of flight test analyisi.

That said, there is a lot of great information in there. The order of the information presented is great, and it is kept in context by the appropriate FAR standard being reproduced for clarity, in context.

A negative aspect I found was the extensive use of symbols. Though they are all quite appropriate, it does require a review frequently to determine what it stands of. Also, some symbols seem to change meaning chapter to chapter, where others do not. That said, if you could master all of this, you'd probably have it all well in hand. I did not!

I was given specific instruction in certain techniques, which are described in this book, and the book re-inforced well what I had been taught.

This is a book for a much more select audience, but I'm sure a mainstay of propeller powered flight test techniques.
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Old 19th Feb 2014, 07:31
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a book about the lives of two test pilot bros who flew for rolls/royce
at hucknall ,,, MEN OF POWER,, harvey and jim heyworth i recomend this book to all aircraft fanatics ,
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Old 19th Feb 2014, 18:06
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Jolly good. Are you going to review it?
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Old 20th Sep 2014, 01:46
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Straightforward Flight Test Reading

Pilot DAR's entry by Askue sounds very similar to the trustworthy FAA Advisory Circular AC90-89A and follow-on editions, which is aimed at the homebuilder flight testing a kit or even a new design. It generally assumes that the equivalent of "developmental testing" has been completed and the builder is doing something more like "production flight test", but it even goes into the mechanics of flutter and how to detect or prevent it. Bottom line: It covers all the important subjects in an easy-to-understand "dirt farmer" style, and the price is definitely right, since you can download the PDF from the FAA web site for free.

Last edited by Zoom-56; 20th Sep 2014 at 01:52. Reason: acknowledge another's entry
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