Having wanted to be a pilot for as long as he could remember, Chris Taylor gained his private pilot’s license at the age of 17. He joined the Royal Navy whilst studying for a degree in Electrical Engineering and, after serving as a Navigation Officer on numerous ships, went on to operate Wasp and Lynx helicopters.
After five years instructing, he became a test pilot and flew all manner of experimental aircraft for research and development purposes before returning to the Empire Test Pilot’s School as a tutor. Having served at Boscombe Down for ten years he joined the UK Civil Aviation Authority as an aeroplane and rotorcraft test pilot. With the closure of the CAA’s Flight Test Department, he formed Dovetail Aviation Ltd and has continued to test fly a wide variety of aircraft ever since.
Chris has flown 400 different kinds of aircraft, is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and is a licensed Category 1 Test Pilot and Flight Test Instructor for both aeroplanes and helicopters, which arguably makes him one of the best qualified and most widely experienced test pilots working today.
Well, what an excellent read!
Chris Taylor has that rare gift – the ability to write engagingly and in detail about a subject that is alien to most people and yet he invites them warmly onto a comfortable sofa within this unfamiliar world.
A book written about test flying by a test pilot? Surely only a pilot would understand? I’m not a pilot and that was my (soon to be confounded) expectation. This is an excellent book and it takes the reader through a career that has more variety than Heinz and which required more lives than a lucky cat.
Even the hairiest of experiences is described in a reassuringly down to earth manner that brings the reader fully into the experience. There are technical details that will fascinate the flying community and yet not baffle or bore those whose only flying experience is sitting in a commercial airliner. By the end of the book it wouldn’t be hard to convince yourself that you could fly any of a number of aircraft.
This book isn’t just a series of tales about flying and close escapes. It’s also about a man who clearly has an instinctive grasp of how the physics of flying works that is beyond mere training. It’s about that tight community of airmen, test pilots or not, who quietly share a mutual understanding of the risks and pleasures of aviation. It’s about the relationship between those who fly and those who make things fly – that intimate interplay between aircrew and engineers. Above all it’s about the pioneering spirit that must reside in every test pilot who pushes the envelope whenever they get into an untried aircraft.
Inevitably in a world where gravity leads to the final frontier, there are emotional highs and lows, but they only add to the richness of this book.
Whether you are a pilot or not, this is a terrific read. Leave yourself some time when you open it. You probably won’t put it down until the final page.