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Meteors & Javelins
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.