The Aviation Historian

Issue 22: out now

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John Cunningham interviewed on Comet 3 flight deckFocus of attention:
test pilot John
Cunningham and
Comet 3 on tour

Pair of Douglas Skyraisers in flightSub-Saharan Sky- raiders in combat: the Presidential Guard of Gabon

Westland Wyvern displays dual propellers on the groundDouble vision:
test-running the
Westland Wyvern

Damaged Nimrod fuselage partially submergedDown in the drink: pilot describes SIGINT Nimrod ditching

Published quarterly by:

The Aviation Historian
PO Box 962
RH12 9PP
United Kingdom

Nick Stroud

e-mail (Please contact Nick to submit articles for publication)

Managing Editor
Mick Oakey

e-mail (Please contact Mick for queries relating to subscriptions, advertising, marketing etc and to submit readers’ letters)

Telephone enquiries:
07572 237737
(please note this is a mobile number)


About the current issue

Welcome to the 22nd quarterly issue of The Aviation Historian – it is laden to maximum take-off weight with fascinating articles. They cover more than 75 years of aviation history, from primitive amateur glider plans by a future genius aircraft designer to the hair-raising North Sea ditching of some very expensive top-secret kit (in the shape of a rare Nimrod R.1) in the 1990s.

Although we don’t really do themed issues, a distinct presence runs through this one – and it is that genius designer mentioned above. Sir Sydney Camm’s early career, glory days and legacy are reflected in several features in TAH22, including Philip Jarrett’s discovery in a Devon bookshop of what may well be Camm’s first credited aircraft design; his tussles with the “windtunnel jockeys” over the Hurricane’s wing in our article on wing-root drag (one of those subjects which, rarely tackled outside academia, turns out to be absorbing and illuminating); through to his organisation of the “young turks” responsible for the P.1129, Hawker’s rival to what would become the TSR.2, described by Tony Buttler in greater detail than ever before.

Speaking of detail, another article in TAH22 which offers a wealth of previously unpublished information is Ricardo Lezon’s history of the ten Supermarine Walruses operated by Argentina’s Aviación Naval in 1939–58. He had to dig deep into the archives in both South America and the UK in order to tell this long-lost part of the amphibian’s story.

Turning to civil aviation, our cover story in this issue focuses on the world sales tour undertaken by de Havilland Comet 3 G-ANLO in 1955. Illustrated with unseen photographs from the BAE Systems archive at Farnborough, it vividly illustrates a successful and positive venture undertaken at a time when much was at stake for the future of Britain’s first jet airliner.

Intrepid civil aviation of two other kinds are featured in the story of unsung but heroic 1960s–90s ferry pilot Janet Ferguson, a contemporary of Sheila Scott who much preferred to remain out of the limelight; and in Rob Mulder’s account of how, 85 years ago, Norwegian pilot Alf Gunnestad made the first direct flight from Oslo to London in a Lockheed Vega.

World War Two aviation is always a popular subject (so popular that in TAH we often go willfully off in other directions, in order to prove that “The War” by no means has a monopoly on the best stories); here we offer a quite different angle – that of the intelligence-gathering effort involved in analysing a new and previously unknown type spotted on photo-reconnaissance images. What was “Rechlin 104”? Find the answer in TAH22!

Sheer diversity is apparent in other features in this issue: commercial helicopter services in 1960s California; Gabon’s aerial Presidential Guard in the 1970s–90s; Westland Wyvern engine-runs; and a bucket-and-spade visit to Butlin’s holiday-camp airfield at Skegness in 1950.

Finally, going back to the wing-root drag article: if, like mine, your grasp of aerodynamics is best described as “elementary”, Matt Bearman’s highly readable explanation of this phenomenon and how to cure it will be a revelation. As Sydney Camm’s contemporary R.J. Mitchell, designer of the Walrus, remarked to test pilot Jeffrey Quill: “If anyone tells you anything about an aeroplane that is too complicated to understand, take it from me – it’s all balls . . .”

Editor's signature
Nick Stroud, Editor