Book Review: Initial Airworthiness by Guy Gratton

The stack of pages on the desk of my cube was gigantic. Beside it three empty binders waited eagerly to be filled. They were the biggest three-ring notebooks I had ever seen. I had to shove an even larger pile of textbooks to the corners of my desk to make room for the endless pages of study materials, references, and curriculum errata sheets that made up the course material for TPS class 07B. I had no idea how we were going to wade through it all. I drew a deep breath as I listened to the instructor drone on about classroom policy and grading standards, and the weight of these books and binders pressed down on my heart.

One look at the opening chapters of Gratton’s text took me back to that day. But further investigation revealed that he has performed an important service for anyone who harbors those memories as well as for an even wider audience in two key ways.

First, Gratton summarizes the material skillfully, for both beginners and veterans alike. I have often been asked, somewhat seriously and sometimes off-hand, what kind of testing is necessary to get an airplane from the workshop to the runway, and I have always found this to be a difficult question to answer. These questions come from future flight test engineers and airplane designers alike. My tendency, one I think is common for many flight test veterans, is to quickly escalate the conversation into technical detail that will flood the listener with the same kind of dread I felt when viewing that mountain of student material on my desk, that fateful day so long ago. In this book, the author overcomes this tendency. He introduces the material succinctly, and yet he paints a broad picture of the potential applications. This introduction is also ideal for the new professional, the recent engineering graduate, who wonders what piece of the puzzle they hold. It will serve them well, painting an effective overview of the work of certification and importance of airworthiness.

Gratton’s second achievement is to explain why airworthiness matters in the opening sentences of the first chapter. One can add little and subtract nothing from his definition of airworthiness, and this sets the foundation for the remainder of the text. From here, he expands the relevance of his first definition to each, sometimes disparate, segment of the aerospace industry, showing the reader the subtle variations of airworthiness and the different cultures underlying the military methods, the FAA’s requirements, and the ICAO guidelines. He also weaves the strands of airworthiness into the fabric of each size-segment of the industry, showing us its applicability to the microlight aircraft, heavy commercial transport and fighter jet alike. In each chapter, he draws from almost thirty years of experience and shares concrete and varied examples of the subject at hand. Readers from any stage in their career, any specialty, and any sector of the globe will recognize some likeness of their work in his words and pictures.

Critics may notice two characteristics of the book that are common in our segment of the industry. The first is the lack of a widely accepted standard format for publication. For example, mathematical publishers have adopted standard templates and packages for use in LaTex publishing software that make the final product more pleasing to the eye, but Springer did not take the time to accomplish this. The format and fonts of the text itself leave something to be desired. The second noticeable attribute produces a similar effect. It is obvious that the publisher invested little time in giving the tables, figures, and photos a professional appearance.

Both of these are unfortunate and remind the reader of the first question that I asked when I saw it listed on Amazon: “why is it so expensive?!” With a frankly, unbelievable, list price of $199 (US dollars), one can only wonder. These deficiencies should not detract the reader, because the global internet bookseller frequently discounts the book. Time will tell if this book will take its place next to classics like Ward’s Introduction to Flight Test Engineering. There are treasures buried herein that are certainly worthy of that regard, but the publisher has buried them beneath a host of editing mistakes. For the reader who can overlook these superficial deficiencies, I think the years will prove that Initial Airworthiness is the kind of book that will see regular use as a reference for the expert and an inspiration for the beginner.

[Jones, Mark. “Review – Initial Airworthiness by Guy Gratton,” SETP Cockpit (January – June 2016): 138-139.]

From Springer’s description of the book:
Initial Airworthiness: Determining the Acceptability of New Airborne Systems
By Guy Gratton
Designed as an introduction for both advanced students in aerospace engineering and existing aerospace engineers, this book covers both engineering theory and professional practice in establishing the airworthiness of new and modified aircraft. Initial Airworthiness includes: · how structural, handling, and systems evaluations are carried out; · the processes by which safety and fitness for purpose are determined; and · the use of both US and European unit systems Covering both civil and military practice and the current regulations and standards across Europe and North America, Initial Airworthiness will give the reader an understanding of how all the major aspects of an aircraft are certified, as well as providing a valuable source of reference for existing practitioners.
Initial Airworthiness: Determining the Acceptability of New Airborne Systems [affiliate link] is available on and other places where books are sold. ISBN-13: 978-3319114088 ISBN-10: 3319114085 Hardcover: $199.00



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