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