Books & Gear

Re­view­ing books on the Dou­glas A-1 Skyraider, the Ju 87 Stuka, and a solo global cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion

Pilot - - Contents -

How do you fancy fly­ing a ‘sin­gle en­gine pis­ton’ that burns six to twelve litres per hour… of en­gine oil? One that will loaf along at 240 knots guz­zling no less than 450 lph of av­gas and could cost you £2,700 to fill at the pumps? Wel­come to the world of Dou­glas Skyraider op­er­a­tions, de­scribed in full and fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail in this own­ers’ work­shop man­ual — far closer than many oth­ers in the se­ries to be­ing some­thing ap­proach­ing just that — from Haynes.

Author Tony Hoskins is ide­ally placed to pro­duce a great book on the sub­ject, be­ing one of the en­gi­neers who care for the UK’S only air­wor­thy Skyraider, Ken­net Avi­a­tion’s AD-4, G-RADR. He also does a good job as a his­to­rian in de­scrib­ing the type’s gen­e­sis and giv­ing a de­tailed ac­count of G-RADR’S ser­vice in the Korean War, with the French in the Al­ge­rian War of In­de­pence, then in Chad and Gabon.

In­tended as a sin­gle, multi-role re­place­ment for the TBM Avenger and SBD Daunt­less, the Skyraider was de­signed by Ed Heine­mann, who’d been re­spon­si­ble for the A-20 Havoc and A-26 In­vader and went on to de­sign the famed A-4 Sky­hawk and other Dou­glas jet fight­ers and re­search air­craft. Con­ceived overnight in a ho­tel room, the XBT2D-1 flew in March 1945 af­ter, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, a nine-month ges­ta­tion. Hap­pily it was soon given a more man­age­able des­ig­na­tion as a pro­duc­tion air­craft when the X (for ex­per­i­men­tal) was dropped and the bomber (B) and tor­pedo car­ry­ing (T) roles were com­bined in A for at­tack, the air­craft be­com­ing the AD-1 (the D stood for dive-bomber, an art in which the Skyraider would ex­cel). While a be­wil­der­ing range of mod­els emerged from the El Se­gundo pro­duc­tion line, from AD-1 to AD-7, in 1962 the new tri-ser­vice des­ig­na­tion for the Skyraider be­came A-1.

Pow­ered by 2,700hp Pratt & Whit­ney R3350 driv­ing a four-blade pro­pel­ler nearly four­teen feet in di­am­e­ter, the Skyraider car­ried a typ­i­cal load of 8,000 lb of ex­ter­nal stores, had a ten-hour du­ra­tion and be­came the only SEP/ sin­gle-crewmem­ber air­craft qual­i­fied to carry a nu­clear weapon. Hoskins is good on the de­tails of ar­ma­ment but bal­ances the dry facts with some ex­cel­lent first-hand Ser­vice pilot ac­counts of liv­ing with all the death and de­struc­tion dealt out in Skyraider ops, up to and in­clud­ing the Viet­nam War. In­deed, com­ple­mented by de­scrip­tions of what the great beast is like to dis­play in 2018 from French owner Christophe Brune­liere and Ken­net Chief Pilot John Beat­tie, you get a very full pilot’s pic­ture of the air­craft – ex­cel­lent stuff!

While the Skyraider might have ar­rived too late to take part in WWII and it cer­tainly was no fighter (the sin­gle air-to-air vic­tory of the Korean War was a Po-2 bi­plane) it was by all ac­counts a plea­sure to fly and it served bril­liantly in mul­ti­ple roles, in­clud­ing air­borne early warn­ing with the Fleet Air Arm un­til the Fairey Gan­net AEW.3 came on stream. One of the best ‘Own­ers Work­shop Man­u­als’ we’ve seen, this book is an en­joy­able and fit­ting trib­ute to a great air­craft.

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