The Aviation Historian

Issue 20: out now

Subscribe, or buy single issues from our online shop. Issue 21 will be published on October 15, 2017

Propeller - Westland WhirlwindIt wasn’t engines that let down the Whirlwind: it was propeller blades

Sea Hawk - componentBeneath the Sea Hawk’s feathers: how was it put together?

Fw 200 CondorCondor moment – how the Fw 200 went from predator to sitting duck

Charles BlairFrom fighter pilot to record-setter and flying-boat boss: Charles Blair

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

Aaah, the shapely Westland Whirlwind twin-engined fighter! Teddy Petter’s innovative design showed great promise during Air Ministry flight-testing at the start of World War Two, but was let down by its engine performance – right? Wrong!
It wasn’t the engines at all that destroyed the Whirlwind’s high-altitude performance – instead it was a few millimetres of propeller-blade thickness. In a major article in our 20th quarterly issue – yes, we’ve been going for five years! – Matt Bearman turns the conventional wisdom on its head and reveals how an astonishing oversight scuppered the aircraft’s future and saw it relegated to ground-attack duties. Matt’s compelling investigation shows how the accepted view about the Whirlwind – put forward again in the mainstream aviation magazine sector as recently as spring this year – is little more than an aggregation of lazy clichés established as fact by endless repetition. This is just the sort of thing The Aviation Historian is here for – to present fresh perspectives and enable discerning enthusiasts to refine their knowledge.

Talking of conventional wisdom, we continue our coverage of 1957’s Defence White Paper with Greg Baughen’s appraisal of the RAF’s historical attitude to unmanned aircraft – which, contrary to popular myth, had always been one of keen interest; so was it that big a surprise when Duncan Sandys decreed “no more manned fighters”? And since distinguished airpower thinkers like Hugh Dowding had long viewed pilots as “the weak link” in air-defence systems, wouldn’t it make sense to strengthen those systems with “billion-dollar brains” instead?

Unmanned air defence certainly came into its own for the French when faced with Libya’s Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder bombers in neighbouring Chad in the 1980s, as detailed in our dramatic account of the often-suicidal missions undertaken by the Soviet-built bombers’ Libyan Arab Air Force crews.

A wide range of civil and military subjects makes up the rest of this new issue. We take a look at newly-established Heathrow Airport in the late 1940s, through the camera lens of the late John Stroud; we chronicle the career of American aviator Charles F. Blair, who, after military service, became a record-setting long-distance P-51 Mustang pilot and went on to establish flying-boat airline Antilles Air Boats (while finding time also to marry Hollywood film star Maureen O’Hara); and we hear from former Tradewinds Boeing 707 pilot Ed Wild about a hair-raising flight to Mogadishu in 1978.

Meanwhile Luftwaffe historian Chris Goss examines the final, fading operational year of the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, a once-feared threat to Allied shipping, which by 1944 was well past its prime; and eyewitness Richard T. Riding recalls and analyzes the all-too-public crash of the Breguet Atlantic maritime patrol aircraft at the 1968 Farnborough airshow.

All this and more – including a look under the skin of the Hawker Sea Hawk during manufacture; how an oil millionaire used a Sikorsky S-38B as an aerial yacht in the 1930s; Portugal’s on-off relationship with the Hunting Jet Provost and BAC Strikemaster; how a French version of the German Siebel Si 204 was used as a mapping platform in Sweden; and an in-depth look at a 1939 plan to fit an early Whittle jet engine into an Avro Anson (yes, a jet-powered Anson!) – is illustrated with rare archive photographs, information graphics, maps, profiles and scale drawings.

Editor's signature
Nick Stroud, Editor