Test pilots - dashing and courageous young men or foolhardy gamblers? In this fully illustrated book written by the producer of the BBC1 television series of the same name, we follow the ups and downs of a group of trainee test pilots at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.
Beginning with the exacting selection procedure, we discover what personal and professional qualities a pilot needs in order to become a test pilot. Only six UK and twelve foreign students are chosen each year and, once selected, the pressure on them steadily mounts. As the students learn to push each aircraft's performance to its limits they, too, are being mentally and physically stretched further than ever before. Training is given on both fixed - and rotary - wing aircraft and by the end of the course each student is fully conversant with the different techniques necessary to fly each type. They learn how to recover safely from spins, how to cope with sudden failures of equipment in mid-flight and how to land an aircraft with no power. All the time, they are assessing each aircraft's capabilities and the scope of the on-board technology. The final part of the course is the 'preview exercise' when every student is required to evaluate an aircraft he has never flown before and to make a formal presentation to his tutors and examiners. Using a number of remarkably frank interviews with students and tutors, Brian Johnson explores the process of becoming a test pilot and reveals both the stresses and successes of the year. The RAF has given its full support to both the book and the television programmes and thus has enabled Brian Johnson to produce a unique and authoritative account of the training for one of the most responsible and exciting jobs in modern aviation.