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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 27 July 2015
A classic account by test pilot Bill Waterton of his time at Gloster's just after the War. Waterton's job revolved mainly around what was then the World's coolest jet, the Meteor. In addition to test flying, he also showed off the Meteor to potential customers the world over and was involved in delivering the plane (and training pilots) to places from Argentina to Turkey and from Belgium to Egypt. In the latter capacity he met all sorts of dignitaries including the Greek royal couple, the Romanian ex-king and, lo and behold, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (of whom he has a very favorable opinion). The showing-off part of the job very much included what must have been epic 'beat-ups' of various cities such as Paris and Rome. In Paris, Waterton would fly his Meteor literally through the streets at below rooftop level (he had to descend after flying over the Arc de Triomphe to fly through the Champs Elysees at tree-top level!); in Rome he deafened pope & cardinals by passing over the Vatican so low that the windows broke. Too bad that this kind of spectacular antics is history in today's more 'safety-conscious' (boring) world.

Anyway, as nice as Waterton's job sounded, his enjoyment was tempered by his critical attitude to the people who designed and built the planes he flew (understandably since it was his life that was on the line). This attitude, combined with his brutal honesty (which is very endearing when talking about his own fears, but must have been less so for the objects of his criticism), eventually led him to be booted out of Gloster's. Pity, because the interesting part on testing the Javelin is cut a bit short by his involuntary leave from the company. This section is still very interesting though, as it involves an accident where he almost burned to death. Another interesting part is about his adventures in Canada, test flying Avro Canada's CF-100.

Concluding, 'the Quick and the Dead' is an absolute page-turner. Most highly recommended.
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on 26 August 2013
This is a great book. I read the original edition years ago and I must say that it captures the reader and presents a very realistic picture of the relationship between the aircraft designers and the test pilots flying their creations. I was a test pilot in the UK in the 1970s and I can vouch that not much had changed even then. As I kept reading, I kept seeing parallels with instances that I had experienced in my working life. This is a great book that gives the reader a taste of how it really was to work as a test pilot in post-WW2 England. I wish I could have met the author: he must have been a fantastic raconteur (he was a truly talented pilot, of course)! Highly recommended book for any aeroplane lover.
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on 27 December 2012
It is a very interetsing read along with "Empire of the clouds" and I think that today we still have a muddled MOD and competition between the three forces all to the detriment of the poor old squadies. Surely the MOD has got to be the most incompetent purchasing people on the planet. i.e Chinooks that can't fly Carriers with no planes, the Yanks fly Harriers and we bin them and what about all those things we don't hear about.
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on 7 April 2014
I recommend Bill Waterton's book without reservation
It is no wonder that the British Aircraft industry went into terminal decline after WW2. Even though it had first class craftsmen, technicians and Engineers, the combination of incompetent senior management and indifferent civil servants was too much of a millstone around the Industry's neck.
Test pilots of Waterton's skill, courage and bravery were the real heroes of the Industry, without whom the end would have come a lot sooner. Many RAF and RN pilots owe their lives to Bill Waterton's skill and experience, as he doggedly refused to allow basically unsafe aircrft to be released for squadron duty. My admiration for him grew steadily as I read this book as he confronted the gutless "company" men who were prepared to sign off aircraft that were clearly unfit to fly, let alone defend our country.

.
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on 29 May 2014
Cover 4/5 Main and sub title pretty accurate for the period.

Contents

Recommended to read this book by the author of Empire of the Clouds. From the descriptions of relationships between the owners, makers and the pilots it is a wonder the author lived.

His views on the British Aircraft industry of the time are pretty damming.

Given TSR2 and more recently Nimrod cancellations one wonders if much has changed.

I will read again sometime and the book will go on my bookshelf.

Alexander of the Allrighters and Ywnwab!
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on 16 May 2015
How it was with British Aviation straight off the drawing board - off you go and by the way do try to break the sound barrier while you are at it. If you find any problems don't tell us we do not want to know. We have paid your life insurance so you are safe if you crash and burn. Now go out there and do your best for the shareholders you must always remember that if you don't do it someone else will. The Golden Rule is always the same - if there is a dangerous fault do not tell us The Air Ministry or the R.A.F.

Straight from the horses mouth literally the story of how the British Aircraft Industry committed Hari Kari and went straight down the pan. Incompetence reigned unchallenged and you couldn't make it up if you tried - the Test Pilots witnessed the whole fiasco.and were told to keep their mouths firmly shut. When the munchkins who ran aviation moved on after wrecking the aviation industry they set about destroying the whole of the british economy and they had just about succeeded. Unfortunately they are still with us they seem to breed like lemmings .
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on 25 July 2014
Great book, we all in the modern world owe a great debt to William Waterton and his peers. You can't help feeling however that Waterton would have gained a great deal more had he been in better control of his mouth.
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on 22 January 2013
Very interesting and a real insght into the successess and the ultimate failure of our aircraft industry,
Mr Waterton doesn't pull any punches about the mismanagement of what was once a world leading industry.
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on 3 October 2014
The real story of the reasons for Britain failed aircraft industry. Frightening in its callous treatment of the pilots of the day, and with hindsight we should wonder at the lack of care shown to all service fliers of the day. Having read this well written and controversial book it is easy to see why we no longer lead the world in aviation. Read Empire of the skies to continue the story and to shake your head in wonder.
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on 21 March 2013
This man lost his job, because he could see what was wrong with the British aircraft industries, So many pilots lost their lives because no one would listen to the pilots about problems they found.
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