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Experimental Test Pilot (Hardback)

Military Aircraft Research Flying

Aviation > Aviation Biography & Memoirs Aviation > Civil Aviation Aviation > Pilots Colour Books Military > Biographies > Military Biographies Military > By Century > 20th Century Military > Memoirs P&S History > British History Photographic Books World History > UK & Ireland > England

By Chris Taylor, Foreword by Cdre David Best OBE BSc MA CEng ALCM FRAeS
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 280
Illustrations: 64 colour illustrations, 60 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399048859
Published: 24th April 2023

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Author Interview in 'The Black Vale' magazine

Read here - Pages 14 &15

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Chris Taylor has had a very successful career as a Royal Navy officer, helicopter pilot, test pilot, instructor and as an internationally acclaimed civil certification test pilot. His first book, Test Pilot, concentrates on anecdotes and incidents from the most recent phase of his career. This book is the prequel and is his account of his ten years’ service as an experimental test pilot, from 1994 until 2004, at MoD Boscombe Down, the UK’s tri-Service home of military aircraft testing and evaluation.

In this book, Chris explains what led to his passion to be a test pilot and how, with tenacity, he plays the cards he was dealt as well as he could. The story captures the difficulties and challenges associated with being selected for the single annual place at the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) and the dedication required to then complete the very demanding twelve-month course.

Chris was one of only three helicopter experimental test pilots posted to the Experimental Flying Squadron (EFS). It was there that he worked with scientists from the Defence Research Agency (DRA) at Bedford and Farnborough on a number of cutting-edge technologies, specialising in ship/helicopter interface testing. In addition to flying the Westland Wessex, Lynx and Sea King, Chris was able to act as an evaluation pilot in the Hunter, Jaguar, Andover, Hawker Siddeley HS748, and the Comet. During his time as an active test pilot, EFS was merged into three platform squadrons which gave Chris the chance to play a full part in conventional ‘release to service’ activities in a wide variety of rotorcraft.

Asked to take on the role of a flight test instructor (FTI), Chris served at ETPS where he made sweeping changes to the syllabus, acquired a new helicopter type and had to deal with a number of students who could not cope with the rigours of the course. In his first year he suffered a ‘flame out’ in a Hawk jet, an engine failure during his first flight in the twin-engine Basset and crashed the school’s Westland Scout helicopter– all of which are fully discussed.

Following four successful years teaching helicopter flight test, Chris was recruited to manage the ETPS short course portfolio. This required the design, sale and delivery of numerous flight test courses, while also introducing innovative teaching methods and the use of civil registered aircraft. In this new, exciting and rewarding role Chris taught both fixed wing and rotary wing students and the book explains the difficulties of learning the additional skills and flight test techniques required of a fixed wing test pilot.

This autobiography explores the military flight test career of an individual who is arguably one of the best qualified and most experienced test pilots working today anywhere in the world.

The manner in which Chris describes his career along with his life events is both captivating and inspirational. One can manage to imagine flying some of the aircrafts with the amount of technical detail given by Chris.

There are also some lighthearted comments and language used which does make one laugh/smile as it allows the reader to be immersed and envisage the scenarios.

Overall, the detailed technical description does captivate the reader and sometimes makes it relishing to read with inspirational examples and emotions from his career. It reminds us that everyone is still a human being.

The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust

As featured in

Aeroplane - September 2023, Issue no 605

"If you enjoyed Chris Taylor's first book, Test Pilot, then the follow-up (although it's really a prequel) will be right up your runway."

Pilot magazine - September 2023

I personally very much enjoyed ‘Experimental Test Pilot’ - I am in awe of Chris Taylor’s flying career. I know very well that Chis has been able to do what he loves, and do it well, and that has taken him to the top of his profession; people will look at him and can’t figure out how he managed it all.

The book (The author’s second book and the prequel to ‘Test Pilot’) is as much about understanding organizational politics, procedures, and flow as it is about flying. – it’s a good book, and I learned a lot! I think that this second book is a very good primer on how to pursue a remarkable career within an organization (or organizations) making the best of the opportunities presented. Chris had the knack for making career decisions based on what he really felt was important, even though it might have gone against the grain of the organization’s goals, and at the expense of moving “up the ladder” that most people are climbing.

Chris has had a simply amazing career, and I hope he takes it the right way when I say that … as I read his stories, I keep thinking “how is this guy still alive?!” I say that to myself in a GOOD way - he had the preparation, skill, and temperament to handle whatever the flying machine could throw at him, and that is what I most admire.

Paul Dye, Kitplanes magazine

Experimental Test Pilot: Military Aircraft Research Flying is a delightful book about the author, Chris Taylor, and his career as an experimental test pilot.

It is an honest and faithful account to many of the same tribulations most of us have, while punctuated with highlights from a superb career in an extremely high-pressure and challenging career field by one of the best there is. Enjoy!

The Vertical Flight Society

A great aviation read!

Having read Chris Taylor's first book, I could not wait for this one. I was not disappointed. Whilst not a test pilot, nor ever a helicopter pilot except for a couple of trips in the left hand seat of a Wessex and Puma, I found this a fascinating book, and one that moves at quite a pace. In fact as one who usually has several books on the go, all others were abandoned whilst I was reading this. The technical side of helicopter flying is not difficult to follow. All in all an interesting and rewarding read. Looking forward to Chris's third book.

Amazon UK Review

An excellent read!

If you have any interest in aviation you will find this book hard to put down. It is written in a style that is easily understood without all the technical jargon that could confuse. What comes across very well is the difficult path someone who wishes to be a test pilot has to take along with trying to live a normal family life. Some great stories both funny and sometimes hair raising!
I would rate this book a must read definitely 5 stars!!

Amazon UK Review

Chris Taylor, a British SETP Fellow, is an extraordinary pilot who has had a varied and extensive career in both military and civil flight testing. From an early age he has had a lifelong interest in all things aviation, initially inspired by his ex-Royal Air Force father. Chris won a Royal Navy flying scholarship and gained his Private Pilot’s Licence at the age of 17. It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable that Chris should enter the military flying world, which he did by joining the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

Chris Taylor has, over nigh on 40 years of aviating, amassed 8500 flying hours and logged pilot time in over 400 aircraft types of virtually all classes. His first book, “Test Pilot; An Extraordinary Career Testing Civil Aircraft”, which was published a couple of years ago, was about his time as a civilian test pilot. However, that book did not focus on his military service, during which he became an operational helicopter pilot, top-rated instructor, experimental test pilot and flight test tutor with the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS).

Chris has now addressed this autobiographical deficiency by writing a prequel. Perhaps as a naval officer doing things differently to everyone else should have been expected! So, with a brief resume of his early life and service in the Royal Navy, Chris takes us to the point where it starts for all British test pilot aspirants – the rigorous selection for the year-long graduate course at ETPS.

From there Chris tells his story with an enviable ability of recall for detail. But, as in his previous book, the tales come over with amusing modesty while showing his deep knowledge and understanding of the tasks he has to undertake. Moreover, the breadth and depth of those tasks and variety of aircraft he managed to fly over the subsequent decade are remarkable. This could also inspire envy in many a modern test pilot.

Throughout this very readable and well illustrated book there is lightness to contrast the darker moments, of which there a good few. Chris’s use of comic book interjections, such as “yikes!”and “phew!” helps move the tales along, as well as providing a means of punctuation between them.

Chris retains his gift of being able to describe in detail what he sees and experiences in a chatty, but not flippant, style taking the reader along with him in the cockpit. He also doesn’t hold back on recounting the vagaries of service life and how everyone more senior always seems to know what’s best for you. He doesn’t shy away from the pressures and struggles that frequent changes of plan about his career put on his family life. Most servicemen eventually come to the realisation that they are serving in an organisation which is there to uphold democracy, but doesn’t seem to practice it!

I know it’s a cliché, but this book is, for the professional, amateur or follower of aviation, a real page turner. For those with inside knowledge of flight testing there’s much to be learnt, as well as many laughs. For those who didn’t have a Fleet Air Arm background, or are not British, the extensive and descriptive Glossary is a great read in its own right! It takes the reader from “AFCS”, through “flash up” and “The Mob” all the way to “yomping”.

This is another great read from the pen of this Master Aviator. Harness tight and locked, chocks away and enjoy the ride!

5 Stars

Mike Brooke - Society of Experimental Test Pilots

"Those with an interest in aviation testing will enjoy this book; those who know a bit – or a lot about the subject will really enjoy it, as I did."

The de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School Assc Newsletter No. 86, Summer 2023

Chris Taylor, a British SETP Fellow, is an extraordinary pilot who has had a varied and extensive career in both military and civil flight testing. From an early age he has had a lifelong interest in all things aviation, initially inspired by his ex-Royal Air Force father. Chris won a Royal Navy flying scholarship and gained his Private Pilot’s Licence at the age of 17. It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable that Chris should enter the military flying world, which he did by joining the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

Chris Taylor has, over nigh on 40 years of aviating, amassed 8500 flying hours and logged pilot time in over 400 aircraft types of virtually all classes. His first book, “Test Pilot; An Extraordinary Career Testing Civil Aircraft”, which was published a couple of years ago, was about his time as a civilian test pilot. However, that book did not focus on his military service, during which he became an operational helicopter pilot, top-rated instructor, experimental test pilot and flight test tutor with the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS).

Chris has now addressed this autobiographical deficiency by writing a prequel. Perhaps as a naval officer doing things differently to everyone else should have been expected! So, with a brief resume of his early life and service in the Royal Navy, Chris takes us to the point where it starts for all British test pilot aspirants – the rigorous selection for the year-long graduate course at ETPS.

From there Chris tells his story with an enviable ability of recall for detail. But, as in his previous book, the tales come over with amusing modesty while showing his deep knowledge and understanding of the tasks he has to undertake. Moreover, the breadth and depth of those tasks and variety of aircraft he managed to fly over the subsequent decade are remarkable. This could also inspire envy in many a modern test pilot.

Throughout this very readable and well illustrated book there is lightness to contrast the darker moments, of which there a good few. Chris’s use of comic book interjections, such as “yikes!”and “phew!” helps move the tales along, as well as providing a means of punctuation between them.

Chris retains his gift of being able to describe in detail what he sees and experiences in a chatty, but not flippant, style taking the reader along with him in the cockpit. He also doesn’t hold back on recounting the vagaries of service life and how everyone more senior always seems to know what’s best for you. He doesn’t shy away from the pressures and struggles that frequent changes of plan about his career put on his family life. Most servicemen eventually come to the realisation that they are serving in an organisation which is there to uphold democracy, but doesn’t seem to practice it!

I know it’s a cliché, but this book is, for the professional, amateur or follower of aviation, a real page turner. For those with inside knowledge of flight testing there’s much to be learnt, as well as many laughs. For those who didn’t have a Fleet Air Arm background, or are not British, the extensive and descriptive Glossary is a great read in its own right! It takes the reader from “AFCS”, through “flash up” and “The Mob” all the way to “yomping”.

This is another great read from the pen of this Master Aviator. Harness tight and locked, chocks away and enjoy the ride!

"Cockpit" Magazine

Featured in

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Magazine

About Chris Taylor

Having wanted to be a pilot for as long as he can remember, CHRIS TAYLOR gained his private pilot’s licence at the age of seventeen. 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, flying in all weathers from frigates deployed worldwide. Despite domestic challenges he became a highly respected and experienced ‘Exceptional Qualified Helicopter Instructor’ and spent over two years as the Commanding Officer for the Lynx Simulator training facility at RNAS Portland before being accepted for training to become an Experimental Test Pilot. He flew all manner of experimental aircraft for research and development purposes before returning to the Empire Test Pilots’ School as a Flight Test Instructor. 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 over 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. Additionally, he finds time to be a Helicopter Examiner and Flying Instructor for helicopters, aeroplanes and autogyros when he is not to be found playing with his grandchildren. Following the success of his previous books, Test Pilot and Experimental Test Pilot, Chris felt inspired to write this ‘prequel’ about service in the Royal Navy as an operational Wasp and Lynx pilot.


Perfect Partner

Naval Aviator The Memoir of a Royal Navy Officer and Operational Westland Wasp and Lynx Pilot (Hardback)

Chris Taylor has had a very successful career as a Royal Navy officer, helicopter pilot, test pilot and instructor. His first book, Test Pilot, concentrates on anecdotes and incidents from the most recent phase of his career. His second book, Experimental Test Pilot, is an account of his ten years’ service as an experimental test pilot, from 1994 until 2004, at MoD Boscombe Down, the UK’s tri-Service home of military aircraft testing and evaluation. Written in the same humorous manner as his previous books, Naval Aviator explains why Chris wanted to become a pilot and how he achieved that…

By Chris Taylor

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