Book Review: De Havilland Comet. The World’s First Commercial Jetliner

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This volume of World’s Greatest Airliners looks at what in my opinion is one of the most beautiful airliners to grace the sky, De Havilland’s Comet. The book’s concise text is accompanied throughout by some fantastic images of the aircraft, and whilst I could never grow tired of looking at photos of the Comet, its storied history during such a time of development and change for the aviation industry makes for great reading.

The book begins with a brief introduction describing the build up to the Comet’s first flight, an event that saw Britain as the world leaders of jet airliner development, barely four years since the end of the second World War.

We then jump back 7 years to look at the circumstances that lead to the development of the Comet. The formation of the Brabazon Committee during the war believed that there would be the need for 6 different types of aircraft to serve the Empire’s post war civil aviation requirements, Type IV being the most radical of the requirements. This was a demand for the fully jet powered airliner the Comet was to end up fulfilling.

The book follows the Comet’s rapid development, from authorisation to production in barely 4 years, leading up to that exciting afternoon on the 27th of July 1949 that saw her roar into the skies above the Hatfield factory.

Continuing to look at the Comet’s seemingly unstoppable rise, the initial success and the development of the Comet is covered. This saw it grow not only in engine power, efficiency and customers, but even in size as the Comet 3 prototype comprised of longer fuselage to accommodate increased passengers and fuel loads as the Comet moved, without rival, into routes all over the world. All with levels of luxury not before seen in the sky.

On we continue to what was some of the darkest days for the type, the loss of multiple aircraft and many lives lead to the grounding of the entire Comet fleet in 1954. The subsequent investigations are looked at as well as briefly describing the testing methods that lead to discovery of the ultimate cause of the accidents.

The rebirth of Comet which saw the development of the airframe into the larger Comet 3 and 4 saw BOAC again place its faith in the type. Indeed, it used the extensive testing period the Comet had endured because of the 1954 accidents to its advantage describing the Comet 4 as ‘The worlds most tested jetliner’

Next, we move on to the Comet’s slow decline that begins with BOAC, the Comets biggest supporter to date, moving its fleet over to the larger Boeing 707 to enable it to remain competitive on the scheduled routes whilst moving its fleet of Comets to its smaller subsidiary airlines across the Empire.

Overseas operators are covered next with Comets being used by airlines across the world, but the aviation industries shift towards chartered flights during the 60’s for the rapidly expanding package holiday market was already seeing the type become uncompetitive.

Still the type was to remain in service with what had become the operator of the single largest fleet of Comets, Dan-Air, until the end of 1980 when the type made its final commercial flight.

As the book nears its end it looks at the Comet’s service with the RAF. The chapter covers the roles of types during their service with 216 Squadron and 192 Squadron, the latter being renumbered 51 Squadron, before the most extensive modifications saw the Comet inspired maritime patrol aircraft The Nimrod come into existence.

Before ending the book, the author treats us to a chapter of anecdotes from RAF Comet pilots Brian Burdett and Peter Bowright

As you may guess by the way I go on a bit in this review this is an aircraft and story I love. The tale of its birth from war time meetings to its retirement at the dawn of the 1980s is one that provides times of fantastic highs of record-breaking journeys and cutting-edge development and terrible lows.

It took place during a time of great turmoil for the British aviation industry, which saw many of the famous names from wartime aviation disappear. Whether that be due to liquidation or their merger into large corporations desperately trying to be able to keep the British aviation industry competitive and relevant on a global stage.

Thanks to the author, this is a story any aviation fan can enjoy. Whilst including enough detail to keep the enthusiast interested, I think the balance is well done and it should not be off putting to those with just a passing interest in the subject and throughout, the story is accompanied by an array of beautiful photographs.

I would as always like to thank Pen and Sword books for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many more great titles at their website.

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Book Review: Images of War. The Desert Air War 1940-1943

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This book looks at the conflict fought in the skies above the Mediterranean and North Africa during the period from which Mussolini declared war in June of 1940 until the Italian armistice of September 1943.

Over the course of the book the author looks at the types of aircraft used by their relative air forces during the conflict, from the CR.32 & Gloster Gladiator biplanes of the Regia Aeronautica and RAF respectively during the early months; to the Douglas Boston DB-7’s of the SAAF and the Ju-87 Stuka’s of the Luftwaffe.

The book looks at the roles each type of the wide range of aircraft involved played during the various stages of the conflict and the conditions they and their crews were operating in.

Whilst the vast array of photographs included may not provide many opportunities for the modeller to examine the details of each aircraft, they are sure to provide plenty of inspiration for potential builds and dioramas.

Overall, I found this book to be a good introduction to an area of the second world war that I had not really spent much time looking at before, with the text providing a good amount of historical detail whilst the selection of photographs covers a good variety of subject matter helping retain a high level of visual interest too.

As always my sincerest thanks go to Pen and Sword Books for the copy to review, you can get your copy over at their website!

Book review! Flight Craft 15: The Supermarine Spitfire. The Mk.V And It’s Variants.

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This edition of the Flight Craft series takes a look at what for many is one of the most iconic fighter aircraft, the Spitfire.

The book begins, as is typical with the series, with a concise history covering the development of the Spitfire. From its roots held within Supermarine’s Schneider Trophy winning aircraft, through the early types and then focuses in on the Mk.V that served as the basis for development into so many of the later variants.

The journey through design and development is accompanied by an array of fantastic photographs of development and service aircraft, with their details providing a valuable source of reference photographs.

The colour profiles included in this edition are spread throughout the latter parts of the book rather than being in one specific markings section as they were in the previous titles in the series. They cover a variety of types and operators and include some beautiful looking schemes which are sure to provide inspiration to the modeller.

The modelling specific section of the book takes a different approach to looking at the Spitfire in model form than I have seen in the other editions of Flight Craft by taking a more historical look at the Spitfire in its plastic guise. There are so many kits and editions available covering so many different variants across so many different scales it would be impossible to look at each kit individually without it becoming a work in its own right.

Even without going into the details for specific kits this section still provides plenty of information and details with regards to the various manufacturer’s offerings, whilst still focusing on the Mk.V, as well as pointing out the almost countless opportunities for detailing.

Finally, we are treated to Frank Reynolds write up of a build of the Airfix MK VB Trop. Which is accompanied by more great photographs of built kits and colour profiles.

Overall this is another great addition to the Flight Craft series, containing a wealth of information and great images to provide the modeller with both a source of reference and inspiration.

The Flight Craft series of books are available from Pen and Sword Books, to whom my thanks go out to for allowing me review this copy, pick up your copy here!

Book Review! Flight Craft 14: The Messerschmitt 109

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Flight Craft 14: Messerschmitt Bf109

This edition of the Flight Craft series looks at the iconic German fighter the Bf-109. As with other editions in the series the reader is treated to the history of how the aircraft was conceived and developed over its life time and its numerous revisions.

This is followed by the service history of the type, covering the major theatres the aircraft was used in and by which air-forces. The accompanying captioned images provide the scale modeller with plentiful reference images of the various types and a few of its adversaries too.

The camouflage and markings section has 16 fantastic large colour side profiles of various types of Bf109 from various countries, including one of a development aircraft, one from the Spanish civil war and even a captured type in RAF markings.

Finally the kit reviews come next and these cover offerings across a wide range of manufacturers, scales and types and again even covers a conversion kit. The reviews are all well written and accompanied by images of some beautifully built offerings which should provide plenty of inspiration for any scale modeller.

Overall this is another great title in the Flight Craft series and if anything was going to make you want to pick up a 109 kit from the local hobby store, or dig one out from your stash, it’s this book.

As always my thanks go out to Pen and Sword Books for the opportunity to review this title, why not head over to their site and treat yourself to a copy!

Book Review: Flight Craft 13 The Gloster Meteor In British Service

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This volume of the Flight Craft series takes a look at Britain’s first generation jet fighter, The Gloster Meteor.

Starting with the prototypes the book contains a wealth of reference photos all with concise captions whilst the accompanying text provides one with a detailed history of the aircrafts development through the years moving through each of the production variants, explaining the alterations made during each stage where possible and pointing out both the visual and non visual differences between them.

There is a treasure trove of images for scale modellers and the good news doesn’t stop there! The book covers the history and development of types used by the UK including Photo Reconnaissance, Night Fighters, Targets, Tugs and Royal Navy Meteors plus some of the more unusual configurations in the Miscellany section before moving on to the Camouflage and Markings section.

This section contains 22 pages of full colour art work that was specially commissioned for the book, there are the familiar side profile images along with some of the aircraft being shown from a second either topside or underside view, again a fantastic resource for the scale modeller.

The book then moves on to provide a list of Scale model kits that were available for the Meteor at the time of writing, all the major scales are covered and whilst some more recent re-boxing’s may not be covered it does provide a fantastic source of information about each kit listed including which variants can be built and are covered by the decal sheets included. There is even a brief list of Alley Cat Conversion Sets. Finally we are treated to a gallery of various Meteor Models that have been built by well known modellers.

I had no personal experience with the Flight Craft series prior to reading this volume and I find myself wondering how I have missed these in the past. This volume is a fantastic resource for any modeller wishing to build a British Meteor, or even for anyone with an interest in the aircraft type.

As always my thanks go to Pen and Sword Books for the copy to review, please head over to their site for your copy!

Book Review: Airkraft Modelling Guide #1 Fighters and Attack Aircraft of the Vietnam War

Airkraft Modelling Guide #1: Fighters & Attack Aircraft of the Vietnam War
Front Cover of Airkraft Modelling Guide #1: Fighters & Attack Aircraft of the Vietnam War

So as my last book review wasn’t really something especially for the modeller I thought that I would ensure that this next review definitely was!

For this review I am looking at the AirKraft Modelling Guide #1 which has been put together with HobbyZone and the paint manufacturer Hataka so of course their products feature heavily. This issue covers the fighters and attach aircraft of the Vietnam conflict and despite the paint manufacturers heavy presence, the builds covered offer solid advice and technique demonstrations along the way. The build articles themselves provide a very useful insight to the kits covered along with many of the aftermarket parts used too.

The Introduction offers great images along with historic information on Air combat over Vietnam
The Introduction offers great images along with historic information on Air combat over Vietnam

Whilst the title is retailed as a book I suppose it would be more accurate to describe it as a bookazine I suppose, but for the price of £10 its not too expensive for what you get with the book containing 96 pages of lovely full colour spreads. There’s also a great little introduction at the start of the book covering the history of the use of air power over Vietnam and how it was used changed the way wars were fought for decades to come. Some of the images in this section are understandably in black and white but this if anything only adds to their atmosphere.

It's not just American Aircraft that are covered, there are NVAF types covered
It’s not just American Aircraft that are covered, you will be glad to see there are North Vietnamese Air Force types covered too.

There are a decent number of builds covered by the book and whilst there are of course multiple Phantom builds, there is a decent variety of aircraft and kit manufacturers covered in several scales, besides its not like you can ever have too many Phantoms.

The Airfames/Kits covered by the book are:

  • Eduard’s 1:48 F-4J
  • Hasegawa’s 1:48 F-104C Starfighter
  • Eduards 1:48 F-4B
  • Meng’s 1:72 F-102A Delta Dagger (Case XX)
  • Rodens 1:48 JOV-1A Mowhawk
  • Kinetics F-5B Freedom Fighter
  • Monogram/Revell’s 1:48 F-8 Crusader
  • Academy’s 1:48 Mig-21MF Fishbed
  • Italeri’s 1:72 F-4C/D/J
  • Tamiya’s 1:72 A-6E Intruder (Experimental Camouflage)
  • Trumpeters 1:48 F-100C Super Saber
  • Italeri’s 1:72 Martin B-57B Canberra
  • HobbyBoss’s 1:48 MIG-17F Fresco C
  • Airfix’s 1:72 Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog
  • Eduard’s 1:48 A-4E/F Skyhawk
  • Trumpeter’s 1:48 A-37A Dragonfly
  • Fujimi’s 1:48 Grumman KA-6D Tanker
  • Revell’s 1:100 AH-1G Cobra
  • Airfix’s 1:48 English Electric Canberra MK.20 (RAAF)

Now I think you will agree that this is a pretty impressive list especially so you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with this book.

The full colour images that accompany the builds and finishing techniques are superb
The full colour images that accompany the builds and finishing techniques are superb

Each one of the aircraft are covered by their own full colour build article, detailing the builders process from start to finish, including any aftermarket they have used, issues they have overcome, additional detailing they have scratched and the finishing techniques they have used.

Now I love the aircraft from this time period, the aircraft were all such a massive leap forward from those of the second world war and those SEA Camo schemes make them look all the more purposeful when compared to the grey schemes that many airframes sport these days, so every subject in this book is right up my street so to speak.

Personally I love this book and I look forward to looking over future issues of the series, you can get the title from SAMpublications over at http://www.sampublications.com/books/airkraft/airkraft-1-vietnam/prod_1145.html as well as other retailers.

Book Review: Adventures of A Cold War Fast Jet Navigator

Cover of Adventures of A Cold War Fast Jet Navigator by Wing Commander David Herriot
Cover of Adventures of A Cold War Fast Jet Navigator by Wing Commander David Herriot

This book is a great tale of life in service during throughout a major part of the cold war. The author manages to take you along with him on his journey from early life in Glasgow to his deployments in service in the Royal Air Force, and along with all the hard work came many amusing incidents that really shows the great comradery between colleagues that seemed ever present no matter where the author found himself stationed.

Whilst operational stories are always interesting to aviation enthusiasts, the authors stories of how these crews let off steam and really did live the work hard, play hard lifestyle are not only often funny, but I thought it showed a real human side to the RAF during a time when almost everything they did in training and practice sorties was ultimately aimed at preparing for having to go beyond the Iron Curtain in one way or another.

For me I ended up finding it was these anecdotes of lighter moments that really made the book, not to detract from the rest of it mind you, but they really seemed to make the book go beyond merely an operational history for the author to make it feel almost feel like an old friend or relative was recounting stories from years past over a drink or two. If you have any kind of interest in the RAF, or those that serve then this is definitely worth a read.

As always thanks go to Pen and Sword books for the copy to review, you can find the book for sale on their site for which a link can be found in the links section of this sites menu.

Fact File: Fighter Aircraft Since 1945 – Frank Schwede


This book provides technical data along with a brief history of the development of each fighter type and it’s variants which are all organised by the country/bloc of origin. There are fighter aircraft from America, Russia, China and Europe covered with each being accompanied by some fantastic images of those airframes. The selection of aircraft included in the book illustrates the shift from the quest for greater speeds and altitudes for the worlds air superiority fighters to the quest for stealth and technological advancement instead.

Whilst the book does have a nice selection of photographic content, the images tend to be more generic images of the aircraft in question rather than the detail shots that modellers crave, this does not detract from the book though which is a great little title that should find its place on any aviation enthusiasts bookshelf.

German Night Fighters versus Bomber Command 1943-1945 by Martin W. Bowman.

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Whilst this book may not be a modelling resource as such many modellers do have an interest in this period and its events and this book gives detailed accounts of some of the unforgiving meetings between the aircraft and crews of allied forces under Bomber Command and those of the Luftwaffe’s Nachtjagd during the latter years of WWII.
Much of the information provided of these encounters and the bitter aerial battles that resulted is given first hand, as experienced by aircrews on both sides of the conflict.
This wealth of information depth, first hand testimony and operational details along with the profiles of many of those involved from both sides of the conflict provides the reader a great insight in to the units and people involved during this period of the war.

Messerschmitt Bf-109, The early years – Poland, The Fall of France and The Battle of Britain


This book is part of Frontline Books Air War Archive series covering various historical and famous aircraft types with this one taking a look at the Bf-109.
This title is a fantastic resource for modellers, it begins with a short description of the aircraft type, development during service, with an explanation of the markings they wore during this time.
The book then continues on with a wealth of fantastic images, each with a detailed caption full of the intriguing and incredible stories of those aircraft and their airmen captured in the images.
The images begin with shots of pre-war aircraft of 1939 and continue on through the ‘Sitzkreig’, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain and end with images from 1941.
Whilst the images provide a great source of reference material for the modeller, their captions give further life to the images and make this a great addition to anyone’s collection of wartime reference material.