Spread your wings

How to make the most of flight training A few weeks back (okay, several weeks now) I received the best kind of email – a query about flight schools from a reader contemplating starting in for her pilot’s licence. I love the idea of people wanting to become pilots. The magic, the self-discipline, the sensation and the satisfaction are all hard to beat. It’s no … Continue reading Spread your wings

Southern Cross Airways

When the Empire of Japan swept across the western Pacific with re-imagined mobility, the nearest safe territory was literally an ocean away from America’s arsenal of democracy. And getting from the US West Coast to Northern Australia by air would be a 12,446-kilometre-long life-or-death game of join-the-dots across the Pacific. In December 1941 only four men had ever made the flight in a land plane … Continue reading Southern Cross Airways

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