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Test Pilot (Hardback)

An Extraordinary Career Testing Civil Aircraft

Aviation > Aviation Biography & Memoirs Aviation > Civil Aviation Military > Biographies

By Chris Taylor
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 336
Illustrations: 100 mono integrated and 32 colour
ISBN: 9781399085342
Published: 21st March 2022
Last Released: 12th December 2022

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Having flown an astonishing 400 different aircraft, as a licensed Category 1 test pilot and flight test instructor for both aeroplanes and helicopters, Chris Taylor is arguably one of the best qualified and widely experienced test pilots working today anywhere in the world.

After obtaining his private pilot’s licence at the age of just 17, Chris began his service flying career with the Royal Navy. He duly flew Wasp and Lynx helicopters from warships around the world under all kinds of circumstances.

After five years instructing, the author then became a test pilot flying numerous types of experimental aircraft for research and development purposes, before returning to the Empire Test Pilots' School as a tutor. Having served at Boscombe Down for 10 years he joined the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority as an aeroplane and rotorcraft test pilot. With the closure of the CAA’s Flight Test Department, he went on to form his own company and has continued to test fly a wide variety of aircraft ever since.

Rather than just the usual cutting-edge fast jets one associates with test pilots, Chris Taylor’s book covers general aviation aircraft, including testing homebuilt aeroplanes, helicopters and autogyros. It also features the testing of ex-military jets and warbirds such as the Fieseler Storch, Sea Fury, Spitfire and the Mustang.

As the author is someone who teaches test pilots how to become flight test instructors, the reader is privileged to be able to share in, quite literally, the ups and downs of aviation testing with one of the foremost test pilots of his era. Somehow, he still manages to find time to be a helicopter examiner and instructor for helicopters, aeroplanes and autogyros.

While Test Pilot will appeal to pilots of every era, it is particularly aimed at the general reader, who will be taken on a journey across the skies in almost every conceivable type of civil aircraft involving almost every imaginable flying incident.

My heart was pumping with adrenaline when reading Test Pilot. It recounts the daily activity of a civil test pilot, while telling of the numerous risks and hazards involved in flight testing modern and legacy aircraft. The author tries to avoid getting too technical, yet to some extent it is inevitable; in addition, there are informative appendices and a glossary at the end of the book, which help his audience to read between the lines.

If you are seeking a true account of a professional test pilot and the risks involved, as well as an understanding of a wide range of aircraft and their performance, this is the book for you.

The Vertical Flight Society

"....a highly readable collection of anecdotes and tales of scary moments...."

The Aviation Historian - Issue 43

So if you’re a pilot, I’d recommend that you buy and read this book. You’ll be entertained and educated at the same time. And if you aspire to be a test pilot, read it a couple of times. There are lessons to be learned that you’ll only catch the second (or third) time around. Fortunately, the entertaining style will not only make rereading a joy but also make it a book that I am glad to add to my library.

Read the review here

AV Web

Aerospace book choices for Christmas, the best of 2022's aviation books.

Royal Aeronautical Society

The book is rich in photographs of the aircraft tested, which ably illustrate the multitude of tales and anecdotes which deliver excitement, fear, and laughter throughout.

A highly recommended read.

The Royal Aeronautical Society

A fascinating and highly readable book.

Aviation History Magazine

Every once in a while, I read a book that is difficult to put down and also one I can relate to as a former pilot myself. And this is definitely one of those books. Chris Taylor’s impressive career spanning many years and operating or testing over 400 types of aircraft to include helicopters, fixed wing airplanes, autogyros, micro lights, and motor gliders just to name some in this amazing variety is truly astounding. Not only is that accolade unusual but he is also qualified to instruct in aeroplanes and helicopters. He is also a Category I Test Pilot and flew Royal Navy helicopters. As if this isn’t impressive enough already he was also a pilot for the police and an air ambulance helicopter pilot. He is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and more importantly for readers, he tells his story in an easy to read and humorous style that really grabs the reader and for this reviewer it put me right there in the cockpit with him.

Chris began his flying career flying Wasp and later Lynx helicopters in the Royal Navy. As he freely admits flying at 50 feet over water at night as a young pilot he was living on the edge and did not even realise till much later how lucky he was to have survived it. And funnily enough he saw a documentary on Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) and thought that is what I want to do! So after years of flying off the back of destroyers and frigates he decided that ETPS is the challenge he was seeking. And he enjoyed it so much that he went back to be an instructor on the course. He did that for four years and then worked at Boscombe Down for three years as a civilian designing flight test training before becoming a flight test pilot for the UK Civil Aviation Authority for another ten years. And this is where the majority of the book resides with both amusing and scary tales of testing various helicopters, airplanes, autogyros, and nearly anything that could fly! He also became a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) test pilot and this led to many adventurers in continental Europe to test a large assortment of types and another plethora of near death and yet again really funny stories. Notice a trend yet? The number of engine failures, weather diversions, and emergency landings that Chris overcame is staggering. And as his favourite tag line at the end of many of the chapters says, “Phew...I had survived another.” Not only did he fly in in civil aircraft but some notable military types he has flown are listed in one of the appendices such as the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco, Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Sea Fury, Hawker Hunter, BAe Jaguar, and the Bell AH-1 Cobra just to name a few. And the stories that Chris has are the focus of this book. There are so many stories such as testing a Polish helicopter that was barely flyable and the importance of communication between pilots. Or the story of being stuck on a uncontrolled airfield’s runway in a microlight with no way to tell the following fixed wing aircraft that he’s stuck on the runway! Or of a Tiger Moth owner that nearly froze to death in the winter air while in the open cockpit. Honestly there are literally hundreds of stories in this book that are told in such a manner that anyone can follow along and in some cases laugh as I’m sure the author did when recalling some of these stories.

There are 19 chapters with many of the chapters containing stories about multiple types of aircraft that Chris has tested. There is a conclusion, three appendices, and a glossary. The appendices are about, “why airplanes fly - and what is a stall,” a section on microlights, and a list of all types that Chris has flown. The ten page glossary is full of aeronautical terms that would be quite useful to readers who are not pilots or unfamiliar with certain acronyms in the test world. There is a 16 page colour photo section and each chapter contains black and white photographs. It does not completely follow a linear chronology of his career. Rather it jumps around from story to story but this in in no way detracts from his story. Each chapter is told in amusing first person anecdotes and hair raising emergencies that are the result of weather, shoddy record keeping, mechanical defects, and mistakes made by himself or other pilots. The levity in the authors style of writing is fantastic and really makes for an enjoyable read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in test pilot flying, aviation stories with humorous and sometimes near fatal incidents, and the unique world of flight test of various types of aircraft.

Todd Shugart - Aviation News

"...provides a good overview of flight-testing challenges."

Air & Space Power History, Autumn 2022

With 400 different aircraft types in his logbook — not far short of the total that earned Eric Brown a place in Mr. Guinness's book of records — it is surprising that the name of Chris Taylor is not better-known. After a start in the Royal Navy flying Wasp and Lynx helicopters, he progressed to the Empire Test Pilots' School before joining the UK Civil Aviation Authority as an aeroplane and rotocraft test pilot. This volume is a summary of his flying career, which has taken in not just a great number but also a huge variety of aircraft types. The really good news is that he writes so well of his experiences, combining suitably explained technical detail of the sometimes 'hairy' moments of test flying with a good storyline, the whole observed with gloriously British wit. While the aircraft types covered are broadly from the general aviation scene, his remit included homebuilts, autogyros, warbirds including World War Two fighters and post-war jets such as the Hunter.

Aeroplane Magazine, October 2022

Chris Taylor has that wonderful combination of dry British wit and understatement that makes a book a pleasure to read. His accomplishments are many, yet he writes as if he is just a working pilot going to do various jobs - the fact that the “jobs” are flight testing entirely new aircraft is where the understatement comes in. This book should be required reading for anyone setting out to test a new airplane. It manages to catalog the many things that can catch one unawares, while providing top-tips on the best way to handle problems and stay alive while bringing the machine back to fly again. And even if you’re not interested in flying those kinds of machines yourself, the stories are just outstanding and flat out funny! A marvellous read.

Paul Dye, Editor of Kit Planes Magazine

Featured in

Salisbury Journal

Video review featured on Scale Modelling Now

Scale Modelling Now

"I highly recommend “Test Pilot; an Extraordinary Career Testing Civil Aircraft”; you will be all the richer for reading it."

The Society of Experimental Test Pilots - biannual magazine "Cockpit"

"Chris's book entertains and informs from start to finish."

Light Aviation, May 2022

An Excellent Book by an Excellent Pilot, for everyone.

What makes a test pilot? Apart from the obvious ability to fly well (and a lot of hard work) it's his experiences in various aircraft. Some good, some not so good, and some very downright dangerous.

In this book Test Pilot Chris Taylor recalls some of his many flights in everything from vintage Tiger Moth Bi-planes, to modern hi-tech Helicopters, all in pursuit of safer flying.

There is enough technical detail to keep those so inclined happy, but Chris's easy writing style means that this is an enjoyable book for everyone, aviation minded or not.

This is an excellent book written by an ex-Royal Navy (above average) pilot who went on to to be a very much well above average Test Pilot.

Very much worth a read.

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

"This is a highly recommended read."

Helicopter International

An excellent read - highly recommended.

I loved this book! It is easy to read, yet introduces the art and skills of being a test pilot in a very helpful, humorous and informative way. It had me hooked from the start. I'm not an expert in aviation, but feel I've grasped some of the different talents needed for flying an extraordinary range of aircraft. The glossary of acronyms and tech jargon was useful without interrupting the flow of the accounts. I laughed out loud at times. The author has a lovely, self-deprecating warmth and humanity which kept me engaged throughout. His literary technique works well - each chapter is a stand-alone short read, yet as I read through, I felt I was incrementally growing in my appreciation of what pilots get up to. Pushing the boundaries of the airworthiness of some great and terrible machines was both fascinating and terrifying. The little catchphrase "Phew! ... Survived another" comes with genuine relief after many episodes. Perhaps more than anything, the author's love of flying and simple gratitude for the gift of such an extraordinary "job" with some amazing colleagues made this a delight to read. Would make a great present!

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

Fantastic, interesting and witty insight to the world of test flying.

I found the book extremely interesting, well written, humorous and does a great job of placing you in the cockpit of a huge number of aircraft that Chris has flown. This book is perfect for aviation enthusiasts, pilots and engineers ! I look forward to reading the follow up story when it is published.

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

"Brilliant, simply brilliant!"

A great read for anyone; pilot, wannabe or simply just interested in aviation.

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

A book written about test flying by a test pilot? Surely only a pilot would understand? I’m not a pilot and that was my (soon to be confounded) expectation. This is an excellent book and it takes the reader through a career that has more variety than Heinz and which required more lives than a lucky cat.
Even the hairiest of experiences is described in a reassuringly down to earth manner that brings the reader fully into the experience. There are technical details that will fascinate the flying community and yet not baffle or bore those whose only flying experience is sitting in a commercial airliner. By the end of the book it wouldn’t be hard to convince yourself that you could fly any of a number of aircraft.
Whether you are a pilot or not, this is a terrific read. Leave yourself some time when you open it. You probably won’t put it down until the final page.

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

Fantastically fun and brilliantly interesting- Test Pilot describes just a few of the nerve wracking stories of testing aircraft. Loved every minute of the book. Chris Taylor somehow manages to persuade the reader that’s he’s cool- magnificent.

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

"A fascinating gripping read that will keep you enthralled throughout."

This has to be one of the best books I have ever read. Chris has a great sense of humour throughout and you can’t help but marvel at some of the highly risky moments he has seen behind the controls of many different aircraft. I found myself laughing many times but also thinking ‘wow that was a close call.’ Highly recommended!

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

From the first 5 minutes of reading this book I was hooked and wanted to know what came next. I was particularly interested in the chapter about Gyrocopters it was not only funny but scary as well. Very pleased that Chris Taylor has survived and look forward to his next book.

5 Stars

Amazon UK Review

So you fancy being a test pilot, Chris Taylor has managed to make a career out of doing just that and has managed to fly over 400 different types in the process. This book gives an insight into his world of test flying with some of his more unusual and challenging flights with each chapter devoted to different types or themes and written such that you can either just dip into each chapter or go for it from start to finish.

Of particular interest for microlight enthusiasts are the chapters on spinning, involving the C42 and Savannah. A chapter on the Escapade and single seater Cub, and also a trip to Northern Ireland to fly the Aerochute amongst other types.

The range of aircraft described is very broad and you are sure to find something of interest from ultralight helicopters, to large search and rescue helicopters, autogyros, vintage aircraft including Tiger Moths and the Spitfire, and then vintage jets such as the Gnat and Hunter, and onto modern singles and twins. Each is covered in an entertaining and educating style, describing both the journey and the experiences found, giving a very clear and easy to understand description of some of the problems and how they were solved.

So if reading about flying interests you then definitely add this book to your collection.

Chris is also one of the BMAA test pilots and our goto pilot for the more interesting test flying requirements, which also means that he has probably had the most spins in a microlight aircraft in the UK, so a pilot of great skill and daring.

Microlight Flying - May 2022

As featured in

Pilot

There can be no question that Chris has had an extraordinary career, test-flying a vast range of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft of all vintages, with extraordinary stories to match his voluminous logbook. For an aviation nut, this is a thoroughly convincing read.

NetGalley, Jenny Avery

'This is a very enjoyable book'.

Pilot Magazine - Spring 2022

Chris Taylor, who is a British SETP Fellow, is an extraordinary man who has had an amazingly varied and extensive career in flight testing. Like many outstanding test pilots across the world he has had a lifelong interest in all things aviation. Initially inspired by his father, who saw wartime service on two RAF fighter squadrons, Chris took up aeromodelling, and then, through his school’s Combined Cadet Force, won a Royal Navy flying scholarship and was able to gain his Private Pilot’s Licence at the tender age of 17. So it was perhaps inevitable that Chris should enter the military flying world, which he did by joining the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

However, this well-illustrated book doesn’t 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 world famous Empire Test Pilots’ School. Instead the story really starts when he joined the UK Civil Aviation Authority and leads on to the creation of his own flight test business, known as Dovetail Aviation, which has the mission statement/tag line of “Making Flying Safer”.

Chris has flown over 400 types of aircraft from warbirds, through classic light aircraft to home-builts and microlights; from heavy to light helicopters and even autogyros. He has travelled worldwide to fly some of these and sometimes came across over-ambitious projects that often did their best to end his career, if not, on occasions, his life.

Chris tells his tales like he talks; modestly but amusingly, describing in detail what he sees and experiences. It’s as if the reader is sitting on a bar stool, drink close by, while being regaled with amusingly gripping stories of flight test derring-do. You’ll have to provide your own hand movements to keep up!

I know it’s a cliché, but this book is, especially for anyone at any level 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 wonderful Glossary includes much to help; such as definitions for “grobble”, “fishhead” and “slop chit”, as well as definitions for the multitude of acronyms that litter the flying world.

Overall, I highly recommend “Test Pilot; an Extraordinary Career Testing Civil Aircraft”; you will be all the richer for reading it.

Mike Brooke

Well, what an excellent read!

Chris Taylor has that rare gift – the ability to write engagingly and in detail about a subject that is alien to most people and yet he invites them warmly onto a comfortable sofa within this unfamiliar world.

A book written about test flying by a test pilot? Surely only a pilot would understand? I’m not a pilot and that was my (soon to be confounded) expectation. This is an excellent book and it takes the reader through a career that has more variety than Heinz and which required more lives than a lucky cat.

Even the hairiest of experiences is described in a reassuringly down to earth manner that brings the reader fully into the experience. There are technical details that will fascinate the flying community and yet not baffle or bore those whose only flying experience is sitting in a commercial airliner. By the end of the book it wouldn’t be hard to convince yourself that you could fly any of a number of aircraft.

This book isn’t just a series of tales about flying and close escapes. It’s also about a man who clearly has an instinctive grasp of how the physics of flying works that is beyond mere training. It’s about that tight community of airmen, test pilots or not, who quietly share a mutual understanding of the risks and pleasures of aviation. It’s about the relationship between those who fly and those who make things fly – that intimate interplay between aircrew and engineers. Above all it’s about the pioneering spirit that must reside in every test pilot who pushes the envelope whenever they get into an untried aircraft.

Inevitably in a world where gravity leads to the final frontier, there are emotional highs and lows, but they only add to the richness of this book.

Whether you are a pilot or not, this is a terrific read. Leave yourself some time when you open it. You probably won’t put it down until the final page.

Jon Parkinson - Navy Wings

I’d thought the days when a test pilot could rack up 400 plus types in his logbook were well and truly behind us, but Chris Taylor’s remarkable career gives lie to that. From helicopters to fast jets, and warbirds to microlights (and even flying cars!) ‘Test Pilot’ tells an eye-opening flying story full of variety, incident, and surprise with good humour to the fore and potential danger lurking in the shadows.

Rowland White. Author of Vulcan 607, Harrier 809

From dummies strapped to biplanes to dodgy ASI readings in Spitfires, ‘Test Pilot’ brings together a great array of fun flight test tales from Chris Taylor's varied career, all delivered with humour and humility that anyone lucky enough to have met him will instantly recognise.

Ed Hicks, Editor Flyer Magazine

Such a great read… funny, relaxed and fascinating. A must read for any aviation enthusiast!

Flight Lieutenant Mandy Hickson RAF (Retd). Tornado Pilot. Author of “An Officer Not a Gentleman”

Chris has been a good friend to the LAA over the years, providing his knowledge and expertise to fine-tune a wide variety of aircraft, but they are just a fraction of those described in this book. It’s funny, scary, informative and entertaining. A must-read!

Steve Slater, CEO Light Aircraft Association

A very entertaining and informative page-turner giving a good insight into the trials and tribulations of a test pilot. Essential reading for all aviation nuts.”

Roger Pattrick BEng Chief Technical Officer, British Microlight Aircraft Association

A fascinating and deeply personal insight into the daily highs and lows, hopes and fears of a test pilot at the top of his profession. Packed with fast-paced drama both inside and outside of the cockpit, some of which had me laughing out loud. Once started I couldn’t put the book down.’

Francis Donaldson BTech, CEng, FRAeS, Chief Engineer Light Aircraft Association

Chris writes like he’s telling you a tale after a couple of beers. His stories are hilarious and scary in equal measure!

Wing Commander Mike Brooke AFC RAF (Retd). Fellow of SETP. Author of “Trials and Errors”

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.

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