Tuesday, July 23, 2024 Misc. » Quotes » Aviation  


On this page you will find quotes which have been taken from videos books/magazine, newspaper articles or the internet, and which I found to be either interesting, informative, humourous, or simply appealed to me.

These quotes do not necessarily relate to aviation, Malta or are linked with one another. In the case of videos, quotes have been reproduced as accurately as possible. In cases where I was unable to understand a word or phrase correctly, this appears as (xxxx).

In the case of quotes taken from films, such quotes may be better appreciated when one sees the film.

Avro Lancaster & Shackleton

The following quotes were taken from the 1984 video Shackleton ... end of an era, a Stanley Hitchcock Film.

”In telling the story of the last operational piston engined aircraft we’re tracing the evolution of a machine which, by 1984, will have seen over 33 years of operational service.

”But more remarkable still, is that when the Avro Shackleton was first previewed in 1949, it was not, as one might expect, the product of a brand new technology. It was in fact the development of a Ray Chadwick design all in those dark days of the mid-1930s, long before the advent of the famous Lancaster.”


The First Steps

”Not totally devoid of Lincoln influence, the new aircraft was to have the same wings and landing gear, but the Merlin engines were to give way to the new Rolls Royce Griffins driving a pair of contra rotating propellers. The fuselage, with its mid-upper gun-turret, was to be both higher and wider, to house the new generation of equipment and navigational aids as well as accommodation for a crew of ten, long patrols of 24 hours being envisioned. The distinctive tail plane was to be set higher and the end plane fins and rudders were to become larger and oval shaped. The radar equipment was to be placed conspicuously under the nose, and like the Lancaster and Lincoln, the enormous bomb bay was intended for loads of up to 20,000 lbs.”

”Equipped as an all weather aircraft, it was to be Coastal Command’s first land-based, specifically designed aircraft. And so, in 1946, the seeds were sown, and a new aircraft began to emerge.”

Narrator. The Shackleton first flew on 9 March 1949.

On The Manchester

”Well, the Manchester turned out to be a complete failure, and the reason it was a failure was that it was under powered with its two engines, it didn’t want to fly at all on one engine, and the failure rate was really becoming intolerable. I flew one once, I didn’t like, and then we were faced with the fact that here was a modern bomber aircraft on which we were really depending for our bomber efforts in the beginning of the war and it was turning out to be, really, a failure.”

Thinking Again

”When the twin engined aircraft failed, one really felt that our position from the offensive point of view was in a pretty helpless state. Well, normally, that would have been, one expected, a question of putting the whole lot on the scrap heap and thinking again. But if you think again when the design of aircraft are concerned, it’s a long process, and you’ve still got to be sure that what you’ve been thinking again over comes out right in the end.”

On the Lancaster

”But Avro’s did a marvelous job in converting that twin engined machine into the four-engined Lancaster and that beyond any doubt was the best bomber, in the way of performance, comparative ease of flying under the worst conditions, and in the vast loads it was literally the camels back which would never felt the last straw. And there was nothing really, that we couldn’t put on that aircraft.”

Marshall of the Royal Air Force, Commander in Chief, Bomber Command, Sir Arthur T. Harris, 1942-1945, describing the Manchester and Lancaster bombers.

BAe Concorde

Rotate any second .. nose wheel well up .. smooth rotation continuing .. nose come up to 20 degrees .. she’s airborne .. in 26 seconds .. she flies .. Concorde flies at last!

Raymond Baxter’s commentary during the British Concorde’s first flight.

BAe Jaguar

“ECAT was really ‘a very useless little aircraft’ (I quote, but dare not say from whom).”

Bill Gunston, in his column Design Analysis 9, Aeroplane Monthly September 1974. ECAT would then continue to become the Sepecat Jaguar, and spend 30 years of front line service with the RAF.


“The DC-3 freed the airlines from complete dependency on US Government mail pay. It was the first airplane which could make money by just handling passengers.”

Cyrus Smith

HS Harrier

The following were taken from a BBC-produced video about the Harrier.


”There we had an aeroplane, paid for and funded on UK money, with an engine that was going to fly the aeroplane which was three quarters owned by some Americans based in Paris, and rest of it was owned by Bristol. And the paperwork for that took some sorting out, I can tell you.”

John Fozard, BAe Chief Designer Harrier 1966-1978, on the funding of the P.1127.

First Impressions

”I suppose I was impressed by seeing a rather ugly looking aeroplane situated on a gridded platform, and myself with my ankle in plaster, because someone had driven me into a tree in a motor car, and I finished up with this extraordinary medical category of fit, civil test pilot, tethered hovering only.”

Bill Bedford, Chief Test Pilot, Hawker Siddeley on seeing the P.1127 for the first time.

First Flight

”I recall sitting in the aeroplane on this platform, the aircraft was tied down with tethers to give it only about one foot of freedom of movement. Opened the throttle progressively, and with a certain amount of uncertainty, the aircraft erratically got itself just into the air.”

Bill Bedford, Chief Test Pilot, Hawker Siddeley on flying the P.1127 for the first time.

Demonstrating to the Navy

”Approached the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, came in to the hover, landed vertically and quite uneventfully on the ship. That was about noon on that very (xxxx) and rather historical day. And I clearly recall the comment that was made by the Admiral Flag Officer Aircraft Carrier Sir Donald Gibson. He said: ‘The thing that impressed me most about your flight was the complete absence of fright on the part of the spectators.’ He said ‘Normally new aircraft come on board bigger, heavier, and faster, and here is a complete reversal of the trend.’”

Bill Bedford on demonstrating a landing by the P.1127 on an aircraft carrier in 1963.

The Crash

”As I was completing my turn, straighten out, suddenly I found the aeroplane plummeting earthwards, completely out of control, and I arrived ignominiously with a major crash on the concrete platform that had been prepared for our competitor. Dust, dirt, wheels, everything flying all over the place, and I recall one or two things, firstly that the ground was much closer than it normally was when I got out of the aeroplane because the undercarriage had been amputated.”

Bill Bedford on the P.1127’s crash at the 1963 Paris Air Show.

Into Production

”The rules, they’ve become more familiar since, perhaps this is the first time they were applied. (xxxx) said ‘Take the Kestrel, change into a really operational aircraft in four years from now, don’t spend much money, make it better, make it really capable, for God’s sake don’t change many drawings.’ Well, we changed about 93½% of the drawings and I don’t regret one drawing change, because with the experience we had with the eleven twenty-seven, the Kestrel, and then the thing that became the Harrier, we got a really proven, been through the fire, operational aircraft that went into service exactly on schedule in 1969.”

John Fozard BAe Chief Designer Harrier 1966-1978.

Accident Rate

“Its accident rate has received, in my view, a lot of adverse publicity. Adverse, because it’s not really accurate. The only way to discuss accident rates is to get the statistics out, to know the number of times an aeroplane fleet has taken off and landed, the number of miles its flown, the hours its flown, the number of pilots who’ve been converted to it, and so on, and then to look at the number of accidents.”

”Now this is a very a technical and accountant like operation. If that is done with the Harrier, you will find that it comes out extremely high in the batting average, very low accident rates, compared with other modern military aeroplanes. But some of the other modern military aeroplanes have not attracted the publicity of your ‘jump jet’”.

John Farley, BAe Chief Test Pilot, on the Harrier’s accident rate.

”We had not had any experience of asking foreign countries to fly their airplanes before, and when we mentioned it, there was a number of questions as to how much flight experience we’ve had of all kinds of airplanes and whether we felt that we capable of flying it. We felt that certainly there was not any problem for us flying it, it was just convincing the British that we were capable of flying it.”

”We had hoped we could, and fortunately on a Saturday next to the last day of Farnborough, Mr. Bill Bedford came up to us and informed us that we had been approved to fly the airplanes, and we had originally thought if could get two or three flights each, would be really all we could ask for. Well, Mr. Bedford apologized to some extent, that they could only give us ten flights each. So we kind of swallowed and said thank you very much and accepted.”

Lt. General Tom Miller USMC (Ret), explaining how he and two other high-ranking USMC pilots approached Hawker Siddeley (as it then was) with the intention of choosing the Harrier for the Corps.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

Not every pilot loved the Phantom. The tiny proportion of doubters are represented here by an anonymous RAF pilot (a dyed-in-the-wool single-seat fighter man), who missed the cachet of being ‘single seat, fast-jet’, who resented being posted away from his beloved Lightning and who found one aspect of the Phantom's handling not quite to his liking.

”Perhaps I'm biased. After all, the Phantom came closer than any aircraft to killing me. I remember the occasion, vividly. We were returning to base after a particularly fruitless CAP, hours on station with no trade, and had suffered the ignominy of being bounced by a brace of Binbrook Lightnings. I'm a modest sort of chap, and certainly don't like being a film star, so you can imagine what I felt like knowing that these guys probably had yards of gun-camera film of my Phantom. The only consolation was that our humiliation had been short-lived, the Lightnings mercifully reaching bingo fuel after only a few minutes.

"In those days, they still used Hawker Hunters for advanced pilot training, and there were two squadrons at Wittering that were used to train up a pool of young, mud-movers' for the jaguar force. Occasionally, detachments of these boys would arrive at an air defence base, especially during 'Priory' or other exercises, to practice their war role of low-level point defence. Knowing that our airfield was being 'defended' by such a Hunter detachment, we made a diligent radar and visual search before setting up for a straight-in approach to the active. Some way into the descent, Steve, the nav, called that he had a Hunter in our eight o'clock. I glanced around and, sure enough, there was this prehistoric Hunter nine with tanks going hell-for-leather for my six.

”No way was I going to be a film star twice in one day, and I was certainly not going to end up bettered by some refugee airplane from the 1950s, piloted by a superannuated has-been TWU instructor or, worse, by a young trainee, mud’ waiting for a jaguar OCU slot. I had my pride. So I rolled on about 90' of port bank, selected full burner and pulled sharply back on the stick. The F-4 began to turn smartly towards our assailant, but then, with the pedal shaker doing its thing and with enough buffet to shake out fillings, the aircraft flicked on its back. With nothing but grass and mud filling the canopy, which seemed like inches from my head, and Mr Mac's mighty fighter suddenly transformed into 23 tons of potential death, as devoid of energy as I was of ideas, my life flashed before my eyes. Suddenly, finally the burners ignited. 'Thank you Rolls-Royce. Thank you SENGO. Thank you God.' With death still staring me in the face, but with some thrust to get out of his clutches, I pushed on the stick as hard as possible and we climbed away inverted. In the bar that evening the Hunter pilot wandered over.

"'Great defensive manoeuvre. I just couldn't follow that, not that close to the ground!'"

From the volume McDonnell F-4 Phantom Spirit in the Skies by Jon Lake



The apache helicopter, that fearsome khaki robot-wasp whose hellfire missiles pulverized divisions of Iraqi tanks at will, comes with a chattier guardian. When I stroll along to look at his machine, he is explaining the weapons system to two wide-eyed boys. The father of one asks an inspired technical question. “Suppose you are hit,” he enquires, “How do you eject?”

“Sir,” replies the pilot, his face straight as a Texas highway, “ejection is impossible due to the action of the rotors.”

My eyes are beginning to water.

“I see,” says the kid’s father, gravely.

They walk off.

“Incredible,” says the pilot when he’s gone. “I tell you, I don’t know how I held it in just there.”

Andrew Mueller, in the article Propeller heads, The Sunday Times (of London) Travel section, 15 August 1999. Mr. Meuller was describing the Confederate Air Force Airshow, since renamed Commemorative Air Force.

Good old BBC

Reporting from Iran on the day a plane tragically skidded off the runway and burst into flames, BBC correspondent Frances Thompson told viewers all over the world that Iran had a "terrible record of airline safety". One reason for this was US sanctions, which prevent the Iranian government from buying spare parts. This would have been more plausible had the aircraft, a Tupolev-154, not been made in Russia. This aircraft, according to a BBC online report, has been for a quarter of a century "the backbone of Russian and Soviet air transport". Here was a case of reporting that failed either to honour the dead or to respect viewers.

Roamer’s Column, Sunday Times (of Malta) 3 August 2006.


Memories of long ago: By an old retired Flight Engineer

We gotta get rid of these turbines and bring back the days of the reciprocating engines because turbines are ruining aviation.

We need to go back to those big round engines. Cranking a round engine requires skill, finesse, and style. On some planes, the pilots aren't even allowed to touch the start switches of those huge big round engines.

Anybody can start a turbine, all you need to do is move a switch from "off" to "start" and then remember to move it back to "on" after a while.

Turbines start by whining a few seconds, then give a small lady-like "poot", then starts whining louder and louder, finally a deaf defying scream.

But big round engines give a satisfying rattle-rattle, click-click, BANG , more rattle-rattle, another BANG, a big loud FART or two, more click-clicks, a lot of smoke, and finally a serious low pitched roar.

We like it like that. It's a guy thing!

When you start a round engine, your mind is engaged and you are concentrating on the flight ahead.

Starting a turbine is like flicking on a ceiling fan: Useful, but hardly exciting.

Turbines don't break often enough, leading to aircrew boredom, complacency, and inattention. Turbines don't have enough control levers to keep a pilots attention and they don't have any thing to fiddle with on long flights.

A round engine at speed looks and sounds like it's going to blow at any minute. This helps everyone's mind to concentrate better on what's happening at the present moment.

Turbine engine planes smell likes a Boy Scout camp full of Coleman lanterns.

Round engine planes smell just like God intended flying machines to smell.

The above first appeared on the Yahoo PBY forum.

Humour: The Real Aviation Enthusiast II


The Real Aviation Enthusiast I came from the pen of the late Bryan Philpott in 1987, who was at that time the Press Officer for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund's International Air Tattoo. He said in his Preface to that first edition:

’The idea for this book first came to me during the TVS Airshow South at Hurn Airport in 1984. Just outside the Press Centre was parked a Breguet Alize; its wings were folded and it sat in that rather quaint manner that naval aircraft seem to adopt. Long after the flying had finished, a family group wandered along and stood taking in all the details of this specimen of French aviation. Mum, with the youngest cradled in her arms, was clearly anxious to get home, but dad, complete with his Kodak Instamatic, binoculars and picnic box, and a young lad on each hand, wanted his full money's worth. “What's that dad?” enquired one of the lads, pointing his ice-lolly at the Alize.

"A Royal Navy Gannet" was the immediate answer. Meanwhile the other small son had wandered over to the enclosure. “Is it?” he asked me, clearly doubting dad but not wanting to question his authority. "Actually, it's an Alize", I whispered.

Small boy immediately rushed over to dad shouting, "No it's not, THAT man... " pointing an accusing finger in my general direction, “says it's a Lizzie”.

Dad looked horror-struck. “Take no notice of HIM lad. A Lizzie was a World War 2 plane with wings coming out of the top of the cockpit and a big radial engine ... THAT's a Gannet!” Whereupon the whole family turned as one and moved off towards a nearby Jet Provost; my little friend turned towards me and poked his tongue out!’

Defining an Aeroplane

Having come to grief in trying to define an aeroplane, let's take an easier course of action and seek the advice of super-spotter and editor of Jane's All the Worlds Aircraft, Paul Jackson, for his learned definition. His theory of flying machines goes roughly like this: ‘All aeroplanes or helicopters are aircraft, but not all aircraft are aeroplanes or helicopters. All aeroplanes are not helicopters but are aircraft, while all helicopters are aircraft but aren’t aeroplanes. Aircraft that are not aeroplanes or helicopters are balloons, airships or autogiros. All aircraft are able to fly but not all flying objects are aircraft. Flying objects that are capable of controlled flight that are not aircraft include birds and bats – flying objects that are not capable of controlled flight include dead birds and cricket bats. The latter do not so much fly as plummet, but not all plummeting objects are dead birds and cricket bats since both aircraft and birds are capable of this act. I am not at all sure where flying fish fit into all this, but I have learned never to stand in the way of any plummeting object.’

From The Real Aviation Enthusiast II, edited by Peter R. March, published by The RAF Benevolent Fund Enterprises.

Malta Aviation Museum

“I cannot tell a Dakota from a beach towel. How marvellous, then, that a group of enthusiasts have got together to restore what they call, and what are, a Dakota DC-3, a Beech C-45 and a Hurricane. A Spitfire they have already knocked back into its former shape.”

Roamer’s Column, Sunday Times (of Malta) 28 April 1996. The Malta Aviation Museum Foundation had just been given land on which to build the museum.

Red Arrows

“I cannot understand anybody that has a love for flying. I enjoy it to get from A to B for a reason, but I can’t under stand people that spend all their money at flying clubs etc, because they’ve got this almost a disease, they need to fly. But it just hasn’t turned me on at all.”

Red Arrows pilot’s wife.

“I think the thing that I’ll take away is the side were we work with the civilian population. You actually in the military can get quite blinkered into your own little world and everything, and yet there are another 50 million other people out in the country.”

Flt Lt. Henry de Courcier Red 6, on leaving the Red Arrows.

“I have to tell you that a couple of people said to me ‘I wouldn’t like to sit beside you in a baseball team you were elbowing and shouting “bravo” and screaming etc”. My feeling is that excellence like that has a very close relationship to, now get this, oh this is heavy. Truth and beauty! And that’s what I saw today. WOW!’”

American woman spectator at Andrews AFB, after watching a Red Arrows display. From the video, “Smoke on – Go!” Quadrant Video 1983.

“Life with the team when we go away weekends is obviously very special. We get well treated and so on, but when I come home, put the airplanes to bed in the hangar, I go home I’m confronted with all the normal problems that anyone else in the country has.”

“I’m looking for a mortgage, I’m looking for a house, it’s proving quite difficult at the moment, I have (xxxx) parking my car and I get down for speeding. So life is very normal outside the team.”

Sqdn Ld Ted Ball, Red 5

Supersonic flight

Later, I realized that the mission had to end in a let-down because the real barrier wasn't in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.

Chuck Yeager (1923-____) born on Feb 13. US aviator, brigadier general. He was the first man to break the sound barrier in 1947; featured in Tom Wolf's book, movie "The Right Stuff."

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