Trials and Errors, Experimental UK Test Flying in the 1970s

B2140

The test pilot has been a key feature of aviation development since the first aircraft flew. Since 1903, the nature of test piloting has changed greatly. Where the first test pilots were often also the designers and constructors of the aircraft they flew, the Second World War saw the test pilot becoming as much an engineer as a pilot. This engaging new book covers the 1970s in Britain, where the computer had yet to significantly change the processes of designing, building the prototype and then testing it in the air. It was the point where new British aircraft had either started their design process during WWII, or were later marks of the first jets. It also marked the point where the British aircraft industry had been so damaged by interfering politicians that it was losing the ability to design and build new aircraft without joining other manufacturers in joint ventures. This is not only an enjoyable and informative book, but an important part of the story of British aviation, providing fresh insights. Highly recommended.

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NAME: Trials and Errors, Experimental UK Test Flying in the 1970s
DATE: 200215
FILE: R2140
AUTHOR: Mike Brooke
PUBLISHER: The History Press
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 287
PRICE: £14.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: test pilot, prototype, flight testing, Hawk, Pucara, Nimrod AEW, Canberra, Hunter, Lighting, Buccaneer, Blackburn B-2, Varsity
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6160-8
IMAGE: B2140.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/n99mgqd
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The test pilot has been a key feature of aviation development since the first aircraft flew. Since 1903, the nature of test piloting has changed greatly. Where the first test pilots were often also the designers and constructors of the aircraft they flew, the Second World War saw the test pilot becoming as much an engineer as a pilot. This engaging new book covers the 1970s in Britain, where the computer had yet to significantly change the processes of designing, building the prototype and then testing it in the air. It was the point where new British aircraft had either started their design process during WWII, or were later marks of the first jets. It also marked the point where the British aircraft industry had been so damaged by interfering politicians that it was losing the ability to design and build new aircraft without joining other manufacturers in joint ventures. This is not only an enjoyable and informative book, but an important part of the story of British aviation, providing fresh insights. Highly recommended.

The author joined the RAF in 1962 at a time when the RAF may still have had more squadrons of combat aircraft than the Swiss Air Force but probably had little more operational experience as the dash out of Empire was reaching its conclusion and the managed decline of Britain was well underway, which ever political Party was in Government. From that uncertain point, the RAF has dramatically expanded its direct combat experience in a series of wars in the Middle East, but managed to equally dramatically reduce its material capabilities. By 2015, this had reached a very dangerous position as international threats have multiplied and a new Cold War begun by Russia. Today, the RAF has given up maritime patrol, its newly completed Nimrods being scrapped before they entered service. Even the first line fighter squadrons are equipped with Typhoon IIs that can no longer catch the refurnished Russian Backfire bombers.

The author followed the path of many test pilots, in graduating from the UK’s Empire Test Pilots’ School and taking his air experience by retirement to 7,300 hours on 140 types of aircraft. No test pilot is ever likely to match, let alone exceed, the number of hours and number of aircraft types flown by the legendary Capt “Winkle” Brown, but the author’s experience is solid and includes some very interesting aircraft.

It is very unlikely that the test pilot will become extinct as a species, as long as manned aircraft and spacecraft are constructed, but the number of test pilots will reduce and each will have a reduced range of experience. This is due to the advance of the computer in the design and development of aviation. In the 1970s, the mainframe computer had become well-established in engineering, and the first scientific computers were entering service, but primarily as aids to the traditional drawing office and prototype construction. Once an aircraft had entered service, it continued to require the services of the test pilot as new variants were introduced, problems had been identified and remedies introduced, and upgrades had significantly changed some aspects of an in-service aircraft. Test pilots of the author’s generation were still a very important part of the process of aviation development.

By 1970, there were very few mysteries left in aviation. The characteristics of the dynamics of flight were well understood. The aviation industry had long since explored all of the alternatives to flying controls and a small number of configurations had become firmly established. There were also no mysteries in terms of speed and altitude, That still left much for test pilots to evaluate and the author has provided a fascinating account of the aspects of flight testing that formed his primary duties.

Today, the test pilot is still important, but much of the work carried out in the 1970s is now pre-handled by computers. Designers can pick and mix features from a huge library of proven design data. Once the basic functionality has been built into the design, it can be flown in virtual space. Design changes can be made and their impact on all the other features can be measured. By the time that first metal has been cut, the design has already flown thousands of virtual miles and been subjected to a selection of emergency situations. The first prototypes still have to be tested by real pilots, but are now very close to the pre-production machines that will be built. These machines are still part of the initial test program but will differ very little from the production machines, because the computer systems have already analysed great sections of design, and the production will be under computer control, with large components being machined by computer-controlled milling equipment, whilst smaller components will increasingly become the product of computer-driven 3D printing machines. It is almost a different world from that of 1970 and this book provides a very valuable link back to those days..

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