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Forty-Seven Years Aloft: From Cold War Fighters and Flying the PM to Commercial Jets (ePub)

A Pilot's Remarkable Story During the Golden Era of British Aviation

Aviation > Royal Air Force Colour eBooks P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century

By Brian Burdett
Imprint: Air World
File Size: 21.9 MB (.epub)
Pages: 382
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526753045
Published: 19th June 2019


£4.99 Print price £25.00

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London-born Brian Burdett had only one career objective – to be a pilot. By the time he touched down on his last flight, Brian had flown more than twenty-five different types of aircraft both for the RAF and a variety of famous commercial airlines.

It all began for Brian, as it has for so many, with the Air Cadets, flying Tiger Moths. He obtained his civil license, and six months later he was accepted into the RAF. The year was 1954.

With the RAF he graduated from Piston Provost trainers, to the de Havilland Vampire and eventually the Hawker Hunter. It was to fly Hunters that Brian was posted to 257 (Burma) Squadron at Wattisham in Suffolk, where the jets were frequently scrambled to intercept Soviet intruders in the dark days of the Cold War.

His RAF career developed further with a transfer to Transport Command where Brian could fly the planes he loved the best – the big jets. After training on Handley Page Hastings, Brian was given the chance to fly the famous de Havilland Comet. With 216 Squadron, flying high above the ceiling for commercial aircraft, Brian flew the long-distance routes between the RAF bases around the world, through the Middle East, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and down to South Africa and Australasia. This included taking personnel to Woomera and Christmas Island nuclear testing sites.

After a period as a trainer at Cranwell, Brian became the youngest four-jet captain in the world. He then flew VIPs around Europe in the RAF’s VC10s, his passengers included the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, among other dignitaries. Brian eventually turned to the commercial world, flying Falcons, VC 10s, Tristars and every type of Boeing 747, for a variety of airlines.

His adventures are legion. From a double engine failure on take-off and still managing to land safely, to losing control in cloud and levelling off feet from the ground, to a mid-air near miss with an American aircraft that no-one knew was there, to spotting a strange object that remains unidentified to this day.

Brian’s last flight was into Los Angeles in an Airbus 340, in December 2000. He had 22,500 hours in his log book, after forty-seven years aloft.

A journey through 47 years of aviation history through the memories a one pilot. From early flight training through RAF ‘antics’ in jet fighters, and civil aviation to retirement. This book covers Brian’s whole life with aircraft. It’s fascinating... thoroughly enjoyable.

Read the full review here

Vintage Airfix

... highly enjoyable book.

Vulcan News, Spring 2020

WASN'T EARTHLY' Retired RAF pilot reveals multiple close encounters with UFOs – including one shaped like the Michelin Man as featured by

The Sun

“I have finished your book. In my opinion it met your objective of presenting the world of aviation to a layman who is interested in aviation. This is accomplished using layman’s language. I found the afterword, “I Don’t Like Flying” particularly useful to a person who has a fear of flying.”

Larry F

“I am not in the habit of contacting authors of books I have read (this is the first) but after finishing your book I wanted to let you know that I thought it was an amazing story, and a great read. I can only imagine the time it must have taken, and the memories stirred, of going back through your logbooks. What a tremendous source to be able to use.”

Leonard G

“I have finished reading your book and found it fascinating, especially in the civil flying times and how you coped with some of the oppressive countries’ rules etc.

We have purchased another copy from Pen & Sword for my father in law who is 94 and was refused to join the RAF because of asthma but always wanted to be a pilot, he is also greatly enjoying your book as well.”

Phill W

"I completed reading your book yesterday, having started at about 10:30 in the morning. I finished a great read at about 5 pm!"

"I am a few years older than you and much of the book was a happy reading of the repeat of my own life.”

Roy C

"Congratulations!! This is a marvellous book, great storytelling along with all the technical details. Writing it down is like living it twice. You are one of those fortunate persons whose “work was a way of life” and you were present for every moment.

I knew there had to be thrills - we live down the road from MonthanDavisAFB and a lot of pilots train here. Lying round the pool, watching them, and hearing them zooming around above in that cloudless, blue sky, “I think they’re having fun up there”.

I imagine a younger generation of aviators will be fascinated by your description of the evolution of airplanes and your life as a pilot.”

Gillian M

"I started your book last night and was very touched by the kind words of your autograph. I read your first chapter with great interest. I like your style and the way you describe various events… It is going to be good reading!"

Gérard de B

"Congratulations on your fascinating book. A very good read and a 'must' for all the present and future generations of pilots and those involved in the flying industry.”

Michael H

A fascinating career in military aviation and commercial aviation spanning 47 years. This book could be the story of many a pilot through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here


The amazing biopic of Brian Burdett, who spent the best part of his adult life in the air flying a whole range of different aircraft and serving his country in the Royal Air Force before becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Books Monthly

20 minute author interview with presenter Bill Padley/mid morning show ‘ Let’s Talk’, click here to listen

Talk Radio Europe, 12th July 2019

It's an excellent book, a memoir covering Brian's years at school, involvement with the ATC in which he got a flying scholarship, entry to the RAF and his career there before a new one in civil aviation. His account of his flying life includes many anecdotes, amusing or sad.

The de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School, Summer 2019

About Brian Burdett

For London-born Brian Burdett his flying career began, as it did for so many, with the Air Cadets, with which he was flying Tiger Moths by the age of just fourteen. Brian joined the RAF in 1954, the start of a flying career which spanned the next forty-seven years. In this period, he flew fast jets such as the Vampire and Hunter, before switching to four-engine transports. After a period as a trainer at the RAF College Cranwell, Brian became the youngest four-jet captain in the world. Brian’s last flight was into Los Angeles in an Airbus 340, in December 2000.

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