Test Pilots Documentary

Test flying is always something I’ve been interested in. It combines 2 things I have a lot of interest in, science and aviation. There are only a few test pilots school in the world. Among the best known, are Naval Test Pilots School at Pax Rvier, MD, the USAF Test Pilots School at Edwards AFB California, Ecole du personnel navigant dessais et de reception (EPNER) the French Air Force Test Pilots School, the National Test Pilots School in Mojave CA (which is the world’s only civilian test pilots school and which I’m hoping to attend in a few years), and the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down, UK.

In 1986 the BBC produced this interesting and informative documentary detailing The Empire Test Pilots School class 44 going through training at Boscombe Down in the UK. There are 6 parts each lasting 30 minutes. “Test Pilots” the viewer a good idea of the hard work that goes into becoming a test pilot, as well as the flight test process itself.

There are a LOT of different airplanes here making cameos. Beavers, Tornadoes, Buccaneers, Vikings, Hornets, Blackhawks, way to many to name here so fellow airplane geeks should be well pleased 🙂

If you want to learn more there are a few flights test blogs out there that I read:

Mark Jones Jr’s Multiply Leadership . Mark is a graduate of the USAF Test Pilots School and former test pilot in the C-17 Globemaster 3 program.

Mark Dickerson’s Flight Test Today. Mark is a retired Air Force Test Pilot and former NASA Program Manager and current board member at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.


Filed under Airplanes, Flight simulation, Flying

9 responses to “Test Pilots Documentary

  1. Bill Brandt

    You guys have such interesting posts – and I will have to come back to this when I am done with my program that is due – bug free – Tue. (Hopefully before!)

    But to the subject of test pilots (and I know we have a rather stellar cast of audience – including at least 1 Navy Test Pilot?)

    I think the job has become a “bit” safer from the 1950s seat-of-the-pants flying but still you need to add steroids on that pilot quality of keeping your mind at focus when everything is falling apart seemingly – I would define that quality as not – “absence of fear” but the ability to continue processing in spite of that fear

    Fear is the rational mind’s telling you that something is wrong!

    In the 50s designing a decent ejection seat was really as important as the aircraft itself – and I remember an opening passage in Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff , where a Navy Test pilot at Patuxent (left out of the movie) – anyway this guy is testing an ejection seat, and falling from 8,000 feet.

    There is a problem and it is obvious the chute isn’t opening but the guy is still calmly giving whatever data the people on the ground are needing.

    I guess that is the engineer side of the pilot coming out.

    i will have to come back to these – such good stuff here – and still mulling over some things Hogday said in in post on the Rules of Engagement – but will have to come back after programming (and avoiding an angry boss).

  2. Mike M.

    Flight test engineer, actually. There was a very famous incident when John Cunningham, a test pilot for DeHavilland, had to bail out of an aircraft…then had the presence of mind to observe the crashing airplane (took photos, IIRC) – which let the design team correct the problem.

  3. Bill Brandt

    I have learned that I will have to go into the office tomorrow so can come up for air – lots of famous British test pilots – Eric Brown – flown 487 types of Aircraft (which makes me think of Robert “Hoot” Gibson – flown everything from Stearmans – F14s – Space Shuttle – in addition to (I believe) being a Southwest Airlines 737 Captain.

    BTW there is a major contribution to supersonic flight courtesy of the British – when Yeagar noted a severe controlability problem from the Bell X1 – approaching Mach – it took a British discovery to help smooth that out – used to this day – the stabilator – the entire horizontal stabilizer acts as the elevator – to my knowledge every supersonic plane today has that.

    Now to watch the test pilot videos…

  4. Bill Brandt

    Some thoughts after video 1: Old Aviator’s saying from Britain: “ All Airplanes Bite Fools”

    Didn’t realize that the first “flight” of the F16 was inadvertent – just as the U2 – and rather than fight it on the ground the test pilot took it up to sort it out.

    That Basset is an interesting plane – able to dial in whatever nasty handling habit they want within the limitations of the airframe.

    From “lesson 1” I believe that the difference with a test pilot is that they can take up an unknown plane and given an engineering background fly it safely.

    The teacher’s comment about all aircraft being basically the same comes from an extensive knowledge of aerodynamics.

    Years ago I was friends with this rather curmudgeonly master mechanic – a Londoner – who in an effort to teach me some of his craft, said “all engines are the same – whether a VW or a Ferrari”.

    True enough – they all have pistons, valves camshafts , crankshafts – just as all aircraft have wings, a means of forward propulsion – but that is where the similarity ends 😉

    Reminds me of a story I read of a man in Saddam’s Air Force in the 1960s – early 70s – defected – and was a MiG 17 pilot.

    Sadaam had just taken delivery of the MiG 21 – a much higher performance plane – and wanted a demonstration.

    For one reason or another – this guy was picked to fly it – despite the fact that he had no experience it in.

    Of course to refuse under Sadaam meant death or imprisonment.

    The guy went over all the operations manual – and flew it. Certainly not something even a test pilot would probably want – if given the choice – at least some conversations with the engineers over what to expect.

    But I guess it can be done 😉

  5. Jason

    The inadvertent F-16 first flight was due to bad PIO filters in the FCS.

  6. Hogday

    Test Pilot was one of my favourite programmes. They certainly kept the flying hours of the much coveted Lightning under tight control 😦

  7. Mike M.

    I tried to get the Lightning for my DT-II (final exam aircraft). Didn’t get it, got the Canadair Tutor instead.

    Which is a sleeper of an airplane. Doesn’t look like much, but get it in the air and it’s a marvel.

    • @ Mike, I hear the Lighting has an unbelievable climb rate. Trying to land the sucker could be a handful. Anyone know the approach speed?

  8. Pingback: Massive experimental drone takes to skies above Edwards AFB (Video) – latimes.com | TRUTH WARS

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