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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: 3rd August 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.

A former Hatfield aerodrome test pilot is to have an aviation book published

Welwyn and Hatfield Times, 6th May 2020

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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The first efforts of man to fly were limited by his ability to generate sufficient power to lift a heavier-than-air machine off the ground. Propulsion and thrust have therefore been the most fundamental elements in the development of aircraft engines. From the simple propellers of the first airliners of the 1920s and 1930s, to the turboprops and turbojets of the modern era, the engines used in airliners have undergone dramatic development over a century of remarkable change. These advances are examined in detail by aeronautical engineer and author Reiner Decher, who provides a layman’s guide…

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