The Aviation Historian
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Welcome to The Aviation Historian, the print and digital quarterly journal for seasoned enthusiasts who want to explore the lesser-known paths of flying history.

About the current issue

We're delighted to have you with us as we continue into our second decade of operations. So what have we got for you in this first issue of 2023? Regular readers may remember Matt Bearman's investigation in TAH20 into the propeller problems that beset Westland's Whirlwind cannon-armed fighter – a type that still engenders delight and/or derision (delete according to your philosophy) out of all proportion to its operational success. Now Paul Stoddart FRAeS revisits the shapely twin in the first half of a two-part article in which he applies some robust mathematics to determine whether it might have been able to compete with its more successful contemporaries had its notorious powerplant problems been addressed early on. Would upgraded Rolls-Royce Peregrines have made it a world-class fighter? Would different engines? With his usual tenacity in digging into the dustier corners of official archives, Professor Keith Hayward FRAeS exposes a classic 1980s example of "Secret Whitehall", in which a British state-of-the-art jet fighter project – the BAe P.110 – was proposed for sale to Iraq, a mere decade before RAF Tornadoes were unleashing a desert storm on its capital. The sale came to naught, but the legacy of the P.110 laid the groundwork for the advent of the RAF's Eurofighter Typhoon.

Aircraft carriers are a perennially popular subject, but coverage by aviation historians inevitably tends to approach them from a familiar perspective. We are thus delighted to have maritime historian Professor Aidan Dodson aboard in this issue to explain how the Royal Navy's first HMS Eagle emerged from the repurposing of a battleship ordered by Chile, and how Britain acquired it partly in exchange for military aircraft.

The first of our series on the nuts-and-bolts details of British aerial weapons – the RP-3 rocket projectile in TAH41 – was very well-received, and in this issue, Chris Gibson and technical artist Ian Bott get under the skin of Firestreak, the UK's first frontline air-to-air missile. Towards the back of the issue, Chris also takes a fascinating look at "base-burning", an odd and virtually unknown aerodynamic technique that was taken very seriously in the 1970s — and which remains virtually unknown today.

On the civil-aviation side, Maurice Wickstead completes his two-part history of French post-war independent airline UTA; Ralph Pegram begins a two-parter about the gastropodically slow evolution of Britain's freighter aircraft between the 1920s and the late 1940s; and J-C Carbonel describes Breguet's Léviathans, the series of giant transport biplanes developed in the years after the First World War.

All this – and much more – awaits you in Issue 42 of The Aviation Historian.

Editor's signature

Nick Stroud, Editor

Issue 42: out now

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Issue 43 will be published on
April 15, 2023
In the current issue:
Firestreak missile about to be loaded on a bomber
Firestreak: Britain's first frontline air-to-air guided missile
Aircraft carrier HMS Eagle
Aircraft carrier HMS Eagle's surprising Chilean connection
Cartoon of a motorcyle being loaded on an early freight aircraft
Will it fit? The early evolution of British freighter aircraft
Operator with an atomic-test drone
How's that for radio-control: the USA's atomic-test drones