Book #Review: Initial Airworthiness, Second Edition

Flight Test Fact
5 min readSep 1, 2018
Initial Airworthiness: Determining the Acceptability of New Airborne Systems ISBN-13: 978–3319114088 ISBN-10: 3319114085, Hardcover: $179.00

First, do no harm. The phrase is both familiar and profound. It comes from the Latin, “Primum non nocere,” and it evokes images of medical students listening to the sage counsel of a grey-haired surgeon. Many think, perhaps wrongly, that the motto has its origin in the Hippocratic Oath, but most agree that the phrase attempts to inspire the highest standards of ethical behavior in the medical profession.

These thoughts penetrated deep into my mind as I read the first pages of a new chapter on Professional Ethics in the Second Edition of Initial Airworthiness, by Guy Gratton. The reader will immediately recognize the Hippocratic Oath and its great, deep-seated impact on the medical profession. This familiarity will likely even inspire, filling the most pragmatic engineer among us with feelings of hope, memories of pride, and deep thoughts about the higher purpose of our profession.


Often the word leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, but when we introduce the subject as the author did with his reference to the Hippocratic Oath, it bypasses the mental defenses conjured by memories of one’s philosophy class, large seminar halls, and mind-numbing discussions. For a moment, perhaps, one can imagine a similar nobility of purpose in one’s own work, a purpose that resonated with something deep inside, hidden in the same part of our hearts that pauses breathlessly to see the beauty of an aircraft gracing the skies.

Ethics need not be the exclusive domain of the medical profession or even the college professor and hipster student. In his chapter, “Professional Ethics within Airworthiness Practice” the author argues, quite persuasively, that ethics should be a more prominent element of our profession. He also shows that as early as June 1954, the US National Society of Professional Engineers drafted their own code of conduct that included phrases like the following: “To place…the public welfare above all other considerations” [1]. It has echoes of the familiar phrase introduced above by the medical profession. Reviewing this formal declaration together with the requirement to “apply the highest possible standards of professionalism” is how the author formally introduces the discussion [2]. The chapter is a thoughtful review of both ethical decision making and existing codes of conduct — from both sides of the Atlantic — and it concludes with a recommendation that the reader ought to consider adopting such standards and practices for his organization.

Running a Certification Program

The Second Edition also includes a chapter on management of Airworthiness programs. The chapter fills a need left by existing literature to formally describe the process, if only at an introductory level. The author frequently inserts disclaimers about the depth of material or his lack of credentials to write about such topics such as program management, but I disagreed. In my opinion, his participation, at length, in each aspect of the “Airworthiness” process throughout his career gives him the credibility to address such subjects. Furthermore, that the defined purpose of his book is to introduce the topics also supports inclusion of introductory level chapters such as this one.

Environmental Impact

One more new chapter finds its way into this edition, and it addresses aircraft emissions, which include noise, greenhouse gas, particulates or surface pollutants, and end-of-life considerations. The topic is certainly relevant, and though it is ancillary to airworthiness, it is something in which each reader will find wisdom together with practical and timely commentary on changes in requirements and regulations. The author points out that this subject is necessary and important but may not fall exactly into the domain of “airworthiness” — this is what I mean by “ancillary.”

Other Observations

According to the author, “there are two additional ‘half chapters’ — the stalling chapter is now a much larger ‘departures from controlled flight’ chapter” which now includes spins and spiral dive. “There is also a half chapter on abandonment, covering parachutes and ejector/ejection seats.” This expands the former crashworthiness chapter to crashworthiness and escape.

Springer has several digital publishing features on its updated website for the book here. There the reader can preview any section of the book or even purchase a single chapter. A host of informative metrics about the book appear, including citation counts. Finally, both digital and hardcopy versions are available for sale.

In the review of the first edition, one of the things I bemoaned was 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 (in the first edition). It is obvious that the publisher invested time in addressing this shortcoming in the Second Edition, giving the tables, figures, and photos a professional appearance. The cost of this edition is less than the first, but it still causes one to gasp. Department managers should certainly consider purchasing this as a reference for the organizational library.

From Springer’s book description:

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.

This second edition has been updated for changes in regulation worldwide, including UK “E-conditions” and Single Seat De-Regulation, the new part 23 regulations in the USA and Europe, and developments to Extended Range Twin-Engine Operations worldwide. Entirely new sections have been added to explain the management of certification programmes, professional ethics within airworthiness practice, environmental impact of aircraft, and aeroplane departures from controlled flight. This edition also includes many new figures, case studies and references to sources of further information.


  1. Gratton, Guy. Initial Airworthiness, 2nd Edition, page 361.
  2. Ibid.

Note: this article first appeared in the Flight Test News, the official publication of the Society of Flight Test Engineers, here:



Flight Test Fact

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