First strike

Birth of the bomber Long before Curtis Le May billed airborne devastation as a weapon of peace, or Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris promised Winston Churchill that the unrestricted bombing of Germany would cost Britain ‘400 to 500 aircraft…[but] cost Germany the war’, the full power of air attack had been clearly seen by its inventor and first advocate. No, not Billy Mitchell or Hugh Trenchard, but … Continue reading First strike

Ride of a lifetime

Thunder and Lightnings As promised, here is John Bentley’s account of his English Electric Lightning flight, from Flight International for April 23rd, 1970. In what would certainly get a well-deserved ‘#bestweekeva’ tweet today, Bentley joined 29 Squadron during their month-long deployment to RAF Akrotiri on the southern coast of Cyprus, to report on their mobile Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) capabilities. It was a textbook example … Continue reading Ride of a lifetime

Down On The Water

Over the years, the age of the giant flying boats has been romanticised into a gilded memory of glamorous, spacious and luxurious air transport that finally conquered the world’s greatest oceans. But if the era was really so fabulous, why was a gifted aircraft designer (and experienced air traveller) like Dr. Beverley Shenstone convinced that it had to end as quickly as possible? And why … Continue reading Down On The Water

‘As British as Queen Victoria’

Germany’s greatest fighter What if the Spitfire – that most iconic British fighter – wasn’t? British, I mean. What if it’s sighed-over elliptical wing (which, as any attentive high school student could tell you, isn’t even an ellipse) owed as much to the Germans it fought against as the English it saved? A masterpiece of aerodynamics Okay, I admit it’s a deliberately hackle-raising question… After all, the … Continue reading ‘As British as Queen Victoria’

The man inside K5054

‘Don’t change anything’ You’ll hear this story a lot at the start of every March – on the 5th of the month, 1936, Vickers’ Chief Test Pilot ‘Mutt’ Summers took the prototype Supermarine Spitfire, K5054, for its first flight. On landing, he’s widely reported to have said ‘Don’t change anything’ – or words to that effect. There’s been a lot of speculation about this brusque … Continue reading The man inside K5054

Flying the Fourteen

A few weeks back, the hugely admirable John Mollison posted a new Old Guys & Their Airplanes clip to accompany his finished illustration of F/L John Wilkinson’s Spitfire Mk.XIV. Perhaps I should have that the other way around… Anyway, John’s post, clip and artwork reminded me that I had a pilot’s review of the XIV in my collection, and it seemed appropriate to share it. Unlike … Continue reading Flying the Fourteen

Remembering United N4713U

Back in May, I published ‘Death of an Airliner’ – the, oh, let’s call it ‘surprising’ post-accident life of Boeing 747-122 msn #19875/89 which, as United Airlines Flight UAL 811, suffered an explosive decompression out of Honolulu in February 1989. You may recall that the aircraft was safely recovered to HNL through the skill of Captain David Cronin and his crew. Despite substantial damage, she was … Continue reading Remembering United N4713U