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
One thing we love here at The Aviation Historian is when readers become contributors, supplying material either recently acquired or recently rediscovered after long hibernation in attics or rusting filing cabinets. The first article in our new series, Pushing The Envelope, is a great example. Reader Graham Turner acquired a set of pilot's reports by the Aero Flight department of the Royal Aeronautical Establishment (RAE) some time ago. Upon turning them up again recently, he suggested we have a look, particularly as they cover some of the more unusual flight-tests undertaken by the organisation during the immediate post-war period, when new frontiers were being carved out in British skies on a regular basis. From flying Auster lightplanes off tracks fitted to a landing-craft, to performing the world's first carrier landing of a swept-wing jet, Aero Flight (which included some of the UK's finest test pilots, including "Winkle" Brown and "Jock" Elliot) was at the forefront of the era’s technological advances in aviation. On page 112 we open the series – in association with the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST) – with those carrier landings, of the Supermarine Type 510 in 1950.
For those who prefer their flying rather more sedate, David H. Stringer opens a two-part series on the history of the USA's commercial rotary-wing operators, who took a gamble on the ability of helicopters to deliver mail and passengers into the heart of the urban fabric. Despite the notoriously difficult economics of short-haul operations – and these were VERY short-haul operations – they made a success of it, initially at least.
Meanwhile, in another of his deep dives into the UK's National Archives, Professor Keith Hayward FRAeS probes the rationale behind the absence of ejection-seats for the rear crew members of the V-Force – the "boys in the hole". Was it pure economics at play? The political imperative to get the V-Force operational as the bulwark between the nation and Armageddon? Or simply issues of technical practicability? The Prof looks at contemporary correspondence between the men in grey suits and those in blue uniforms.
Talking of technical practicability, Chris Gibson takes a look at the bizarre 1960s Project Prodigal, which spawned a collection of concepts for a "jumping jeep" for the British Army – some of them potentially more "squaddie-proof" than others.
In another article about military technology, Chris Gibson teams up with Ian Bott to explore the history and the nuts-and-bolts of the fearsomely effective Paveway laser-guided bomb.
Elsewhere in TAH46, Professor Aidan Dodson tells the story of HMS Vindictive, a pioneer of aircraft catapult operations, which started out as a Royal Navy cruiser, became an aircraft-carrier and then reverted to cruiser status again; Graham Skillen begins a two-parter about how the Miles Aerovan led on to the Shorts Skyvan; Amaru Tincopa examines the service of the Curtiss Hawk biplane with the Peruvian Air Force; and Jean-Christophe Carbonel shines a light on elusive European pre-First World War pioneer Léon-Arsène Brissard and his unorthodox ducted-fan flying-machine. All this – and much more – awaits you in Issue 46 of The Aviation Historian.
Nick Stroud, Editor
Issue 46: out now
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