About the current issue
Imagine a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, but enlarged to three times the size, and powered to Mach 2·5 by twin wingtip-mounted liquid-hydrogen-fuelled engines. That's Suntan, a little-known unbuilt project conceived by legendary designer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson.
The aircraft's full story is just one of the articles in this 12th quarterly issue of The Aviation Historian, which completes our first three years of operations. When we launched our compact-format journal in 2012, aiming to produce something very different from the mainstream monthlies, we did not know what the future held. But, thanks to the support of our readers and subscribers, we are now the world’s fastest-growing aviation history magazine! If you haven't tried us yet, then get hold of a copy now.
In the current issue we continue our quest to bring you lesser-known but astonishing material, exemplified by Dr David Baker's account of Suntan described above. It was eclipsed by the SR-71 Blackbird – but what a story, illustrated with specially-commissioned artwork and information graphics.
Another Cold War story is our reassessment of the Soviet "invasion" of the 1965 Paris Air Show. It was widely seen at the time as a revelatory but intimidating projection of Eastern Bloc technological prowess, but actually the Russians really needed the money that aircraft sales could bring.
Moving from the Cold War to World War Two, we describe one of the few operational failures of the iconic Supermarine Spitfire, when it was pressed unsuitably into the role of divebomber. We also recount how the island of Vis, off the coast of Yugoslavia, became a crucial emergency landing field for aircraft on long-distance bombing raids. This was despite the "rocky, waterless crag" having a terrifyingly short runway (with mountains at one end and a 100ft drop over a cliff at the other) and little space or facilities.
Mountainous terrain also features in Part One of our new series, based on mostly unpublished photographs taken by the late airline historian John Stroud during his 70-year aviation career. It vividly recaptures a route-proving DC-3 flight deep into the Hindu Kush.
Intrepid airline-related aviation of another sort is described in our account of TWA's high-altitude research in the 1930s, which paved the way for airliners to fly "above the weather". The many hazards included anoxia: one test observer owed his life to having the end of his broken oxygen hose stuffed up his nostril by a quick-thinking colleague after he lost consciousness.
We love to present aircraft you may never have heard of, so, in addition to Suntan mentioned earlier, we bring you the story of the Sparmann S 1-A, a pretty but forgotten Swedish fighter trainer of the mid-1930s. The article is accompanied by excellent scale drawings.
I'm running out of space, but other articles include a first-hand account by the late David Lockspeiser of an eventful Hawker company tour to the Middle East in 1959; Warren E. Thompson's history of US Marine Corps HueyCobra unit HML-367 in Vietnam; the concluding half of our biography of Fairey test pilot Duncan Menzies; the later years of cold-weather testing at Ladd Field in Alaska; our serialisation of F. Warren Merriam's lost book manuscript Echoes From Dawn Skies; and more.
So, three years in (and counting), you can count on The Aviation Historian to bring you the freshest material. You won't see these articles in the mainstream magazines, and we're not on sale in newsagents – so get us, right here, by subscribing or buying a sample issue now.
Nick Stroud, Editor