The General Aviation Specialist Group organised a lecture by Roger “Dodge” Bailey on his experiences as Chief Test Pilot of The Shuttleworth Collection. Dodge described the classification of the collection’s aircraft according to both flying and ground handling characteristics, and the selection of volunteer pilots for training. The training is effectively a formally organised apprenticeship.  There are some forty aircraft and fifteen volunteer pilots.

The volunteers are preferably in their early forties, willing to devote a lot of time to their training and keen to demonstrate the aircraft, not their flying.  The selection is by interview and a flight test with the Chief Pilot.

All the aircraft have tail wheels or skids.  These may be fixed, castoring or steerable and accurate, sensitive ground handling has to be developed.  Many aircraft do not have wheel brakes.

Trainee pilots progress by engine type.  The in-line air cooled engines such as the de Havilland Gipsy series are very robust and have conventional controls.  The radial engines may be geared or direct drive, and pilots have to be ready for the aircraft to want to swing both on take-off and landing.  Pilots progress to radial engines, those with superchargers to manage, and variable pitch propellers.  Final promotion is to rotary engines with their huge gyroscopic forces.

The older the engine, the more complex is its management.  Superchargers and air flow through the radiators of liquid cooled engines have to be controlled.  Power control may be unorthodox by modern standards.  Some engines have no throttles with control of the ignition often by the ignition or even fuel flow.

Flying is also a challenge, with pilots accustomed to good forward views having to learn to make good take-offs and landings with a high nose denying any forward view and making both height and direction control difficult.  Some aircraft have no forward view at any time of flight.

Flying instruments are sparse and unorthodox.  Many have a slip needle above the turn indicator.  Some have a spirit level to show slip.  Three-point landings are usually essential.

The next challenge is the DH88 Comet racer (G-ACSS), with a very poor forward view at any time in order to minimise drag and no pilots with previous flying experience on type.

The age and rarity of the aircraft mean that pilots have very little time to fly any aircraft.  Even the displays are short.  There is little opportunity to get used to any one type, so sensitivity of handling and accuracy of flying are absolutely essential.

Future Events for the Diary

17th November 2014 - General Aviation Conference
Light Aircraft Design - Methods and Tools 2014

The General Aviation Specialist Group are looking for new members to join their Committee, if you are interested or would like more information please contact the Group Chairman, John Edgley, c/o Conference and Events Department, Royal Aeronautical Society, No. 4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ. Alternatively Email: or call +44 (0)20 7670 4308

Conferences and Events
9 May 2014