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Safety is No Accident: From 'V' Bombers to Concorde (Hardback)

A Flight Test Engineer's Story

Aviation Photographic Books Colour Books

By John R W Smith
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 98 colour & black and white
ISBN: 9781526769442
Published: 30th July 2020

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Flying, as everyone knows, is generally regarded as the safest means of transportation. Yet for that to be the case an enormous amount of testing is undertaken. Central to this, of course, are the test pilots, who fly the aircraft, but it is the people behind the scenes who deal with the technical aspects of the aircraft – the flight test observers and engineers.

Numerous books have been written by Test Pilots, but few, if any, from the perspective of an Aeronautical Engineer working as Flight Test Observer/Engineer in partnership with the Test Pilot. This book is an account of the author’s flight-testing career, from the 1960s to early 1980s, at Avro and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

During the author’s time at Avro, he flew on the development and certification test flights of the Avro 748, 748MF, Shackletons, Nimrod and Handley-Page Victor tanker. In the CAA, his role turned to regulation, making flight test assessments of manufacturer’s prototypes and production aircraft, to check compliance with the CAA’s flight safety requirements. The scope ranged from single-engine light aircraft to large civil transport aircraft. It involved frequent visits to foreign manufacturers and also included his participation in the CAA’s Concorde certification flight test programme.

Flight testing involves risk. Advancements in the understanding of aerodynamics and an increasingly professional approach to risk management improved safety, but it would never be risk-free. Several of the author’s close friends and colleagues died in flight test accidents during this period; all on civil aircraft types. It is because of such people that the millions of flights undertaken each year are trouble-free.

Article: ‘Aviation book to be released by retired aeronautical engineer’ as featured by

Isle of Wight County Press, 15th April 2020 – words by Dominic Kureen

Click here to listen to John R W Smith interview on

Talk Radio Europe with presenter Bill Padley on the mid morning show ‘ Let’s Talk’

About John R W Smith

JOHN R.W. SMITH obtained an honours degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Bristol University in 1962. Having completed his apprenticeship, he joined Avro in 1963 as an Aerodynamicist in the Flight Development Department and, alongside this task, became a Flight Test Observer in 1964. His professional expertise expanded from aerodynamics to automatic flight control systems and navigation systems. During that time, he flew frequently with Tony Blackman who was Avro’s Chief Test Pilot. In 1974 he joined the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as a Flight Test Engineer. He was appointed a Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1982, he left the CAA’s Flight Department to become a Design Liaison Surveyor in the Projects Department, leading teams of CAA specialist engineers investigating the design and test results for aircraft types seeking UK certification, and on further promotion was responsible for all Light Aeroplane certification, as well as managing the CAA’s design and production approval process for UK aircraft manufacturers. In 1993, he became CAA’s Head of Aircraft Certification. John retired in 1999.

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