Issue 39: out now
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Issue 40 will be published on
July 15, 2022
About the current issue
Welcome to the 39th issue of The Aviation Historian, the print and digital quarterly journal for seasoned enthusiasts who want to explore the lesser-known paths of flying history.
When we were planning this issue in the early days of 2022, there was only the most distant rumbling from dark clouds gathering over eastern Europe. As I was writing this piece in early March, that rumbling had turned into the deafening daily roar of Russian military might being hurled indiscriminately at the people of Ukraine in a disgraceful bid to overturn the sovereignty of an independent democratic state. We had no idea then that several of the features included in this issue would turn out to have themes related in some way to this historic turn of events. Lennart Andersson's article on Sweden's emergency war airbases, for example, now brings into sharp focus the measures taken by some of the nations directly facing the Russian bear during the Cold War — which, in light of recent events, we may soon be referring to as "The First Cold War" — including the use of forests and roads to house secret airbase complexes. Most were decommissioned decades ago, but with Sweden now finding itself closer to an unwelcome new front line, it's a concept that may have to be revisited.
We also take a look, in Günter Endres' article Baltic Triangles, at the early years of civil aviation in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — the Baltic states now casting their eyes nervously southwards, and which used the advent of the aeroplane as a means of asserting their economic independence after being liberated from Russia's yoke in the 1920s.
There’s also Bill Cahill's chronicle of the USAF's pioneering use of unmanned drones in the Vietnam conflict to develop techniques still being used by both sides in Ukraine today; and Michael Napier covers the methods employed by RAF Bomber Command to increase training capacity in the dark days following an earlier land-grab attempt in eastern Europe.
There are clearly lessons to be learned from history at this moment, and we hope for a peaceful, just and lasting resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.
Elsewhere in the current issue, Prof Keith Hayward FRAeS opens a three-part series on the political aspects of the development of a symbol of post-Second World War British recovery: the elegant but troubled de Havilland Comet jet airliner. Still on the airliner theme, but very different, we examine the "UFO sighting" on Brazilian airline VASP's Flight 169 in February 1982. As long-established aviation-history journalists we tend to give UFO stories a wide berth, but this scientific analysis is very illuminating and bears close attention.
Moving from the arcane to the rather more mundane, we take a look at the 1980s procurement process for the replacement for the RAF's Jet Provost trainer, and examine how the choice between the two main contenders, the Embraer-originated Shorts Tucano and the Pilatus PC-9, ended in selection of the possibly unfairly-nicknamed "Tincano".
Other features in the current issue include the Second World War proposal to build Consolidated B-32 Dominators in the UK; and two very unorthodox projects: a Supermarine "slip-wing" flying-boat of the First World War period and the work of Hiram Cannon Otwell, a forgotten early-20th-Century champion of the tiltrotor concept.
Nick Stroud, Editor
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