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Chief Test Pilot for future hydrogen aircraft

Dodge Bailey

Project Fresson – the development of a hydrogen aircraft by converting an existing Britten-Norman Islander aircraft to that of gaseous hydrogen propulsion, is a project lead by Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, and forms the foundations of the company’s plans to produce new aircraft designs of up to 100 seats, optimized around zero-emissions technology.

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The Islander aircraft has a rigorous testing programme, which once completed and the aircraft certified, is aiming to enter service commercially in 2026.

A key element to the success of Project Fresson is the role of the Chief Test Pilot (CTP); the CTP has the expertise to fly and evaluate experimental, newly produced and modified aircraft, and performs all the flight test parameters spelled out in the certification plan.

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Roger ‘Dodge’ Bailey inside G-HYUK – the BN Islander bound for conversion to hydrogen-propulsion

Dodge Bailey is Cranfield Aerospace Solutions Chief Test Pilot and has already begun the first phases of the testing programme for Project Fresson. But who is the pilot testing the aircraft that is changing the future of aviation? 

Roger Bailey’s aviation background

“I joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) straight from school as a student pilot. Operationally I flew the C-130 Hercules for ten years, after which I attended the Central Flying School to be trained as a flying instructor. I instructed Scottish undergraduates at Glasgow for three years before becoming a Bulldog standards instructor for about a year. 

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Scottish Aviation Bulldog

“I was selected for test pilot training and graduated from the United States Air Force Test Pilot School (on a student exchange programme) a year or so later. I served as a test pilot for the Royal Aircraft Establishment (at Bedford Thurleigh) for the remainder of my time in the RAF.”

How long have you worked for CAeS as a test pilot? 

“I joined Cranfield University in 1990 from the RAF. In those days it was Cranfield Institute of Technology and the founding faculty was the College of Aeronautics which had started in 1946. 

“I joined as Chief Test Pilot of the College of Aeronautics under Professor Denis Howe who was both the head of School and the Chief Designer for the Aircraft Engineering Group from which Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAes) evolved over the ensuing 20-30 years. 

“I was head of the National Flying Laboratory Centre (NFLC) from the mid 90’s until I retired from full-time employment with Cranfield University. I continued as a part-time Jetstream instructor/examiner until G-NFLA was replaced by the Saab as the ‘Flying Classroom’. I also continued as part-time Chief Test Pilot for Cranfield Aerospace Solutions, so one could say that I have been CTP at Cranfield for 33 years!”

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Cranfield Aerospace Solutions employees before a flight on the ‘Flying Classroom’

What projects have you been a test pilot for?

“In terms of exciting projects I’ve been involved with, there are almost too many to recall. In rough chronological order they include inter alia: 

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Cranfield A1 aerobatic aircraft
  • BAE Systems Warton’s first Jetstream testbed G-BBYM, and their follow-on Jetstream test bed G-BWWW (supporting various technologies and ultimately a pseudo unmanned autonomous aircraft)
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Jetstream test bed G-BWWW
  • Radar and traffic avoidance trials in Jetstream G-RAVL for various UK companies
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Jetstream G-RAVL
  • Atmospheric measurement in Jetstream G-AXUM looking at airborne pollution around Europe for what was then called National Power
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Jetstream G-AXUM
  • The volcanic ash monitoring Cessna 421 for the Met Office
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Met Office Cessna 421
  • The CAeS Cessna 421 test bed G-VVIP

What aircraft do you fly?

“I also volunteer in my spare time as a display pilot for Shuttleworth Trust since 1990. I have served as Chief Pilot there and am now the Aviation Trustee. 

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Roger Bailey giving Cranfield Aerospace Solutions employees a private tour of the Shuttleworth Collection

“I have flown all the aircraft in the current Shuttleworth Collection and several others that have since moved away – somewhat over 60 aircraft originating between 1909 and 1950 over the last 30 some years.”

Dodge also recently displayed CAeS’ BN Islander at the Best of British Evening Display at Shuttelworth.