RAF V-force 1955-69 Operations Manual by Andrew Brookes and Avro Shackleton 1949 to 1991 (all marks) Owners’ Workshop Manual by Keith Wilson www.haynes.co.uk £25 each. Hardback, 156 and 173 pages, mixed colour & B & W illustration throughout
One more ‘operations manual’ and one more ‘owners’ workshop manual’ from the Haynes stable – the Somerset publisher is certainly shelling them out, but it is generally maintaining the quality we have come to associate with the brand.
This reviewer was particularly taken by the V-force book. Author Andrew Brooks flew V-bombers (Victors and Vulcans) as an RAF pilot, has served in senior defence posts and is these days CEO of The Air League. He writes beautifully, with authority and keen insight – all you might hope for in a book like this. Thus the reader will learn an awful lot from the pages of RAF V-force and develop a fresh respect for the men and companies that produced and operated three of the most outstanding bomber designs in the history of the RAF, not to mention the equally impressive British nuclear weapon development team. In PRE-NATO days the latter group was charged with producing our own atomic bomb with no cooperation on the part of the Americans – an impressive technical achievement.
With origins in the WWII Lancaster and post-war Lincoln, the Avro Shackleton was as conservative in its design as the V-bombers — even the sometimes derided Vickers Valiant — were futuristic. However, as Keith Wilson makes clear in his ‘owners’ manual’, crews had great affection for the lumbering and deafening ‘Old Grey Lady’ which remained in service for a staggering forty years. As you might expect from Pilot’s regular air-to-air photographer, the book is very well illustrated and offers a great technical insight to operating the aircraft. What a shame it is that not one is flying today. PW
Cutting-edge V-bombers and long-serving son of Lanc
Eighty, not out — the immortal DC-3
When Douglas tooled-up to produce the DC-3 in the 1930s, they reckoned they might build as many as fifty of the aircraft. Of course, the Dakota — as the British named it in WWII, when the C-47 military transport version came into RAF operation — became the archetypical airliner and some 16,000 were produced by the American firm and copyists in the Soviet Union and Japan.
Even as late as the 1960s they used to say the only replacement for a DC-3 or war-surplus C-47 was another DC-3. The airframe was incredibly durable, over-engineered to the point that there have been only a handful of ADS (Airworthiness Directives — formal requirements for inspection of/rectification to the airframe). It is said that no DC-3 has ever suffered an accident due to structural failure. However, as Geoff Jones’s new book explains, most of the surviving working fleet is made up from turbine-engine conversions because the one item that doesn’t go on forever is the long-out-of-production big radial engine.
There’s a lot of information in 80 Glorious Years, the early history of the DC-3 being set in context by a section that describes its early rivals in useful detail — they weren’t just the archaic biplane transports produced by de Havilland and Curtiss, but the all-metal, retractable-undercarriage Boeing 247 and a number of advanced German, French and Italian designs. These aeroplanes — and later monoplane rivals produced by de Havilland and other British manufacturers — are illustrated, described and listed in good detail, but the lack of an index makes finding all references to them a pain (Fonthill please note!)
Photo reproduction is very good throughout, and the illustrations are plentiful and decently-sized without making this one of those handsome-looking but not terribly informative books you do see today. Indeed this one manages to be both filled with information and a pleasure to behold — and no one can complain at that! PW