27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2011
The Lightning Boys by Richard Pike
Each chapter in this book is written by a past pilot of the Lightning fighter and reflects some of their experiences during that time. It is written in language that even I as a layman can understand and enjoy. Each event (chapter) gives the reader an insight into the trials and pleasures of flying this aircraft and reflects the love of both the aircraft and flying that these pilots have.
Once you have picked up this book it is very difficult to put it down again.
Richard Pike has done an excellent job in encouraging the writers and compiling their stories into one volume. For those who enjoy reading actual stories of flying over the years written by the actual pilots to whom the events took place this is a book for you.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2011
During the darkest days of 1940, when beleaguered Britain was expecting a German invasion at any time and the fate of the free world hung in the balance, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was moved to utter some of the most resounding words of the 20th century: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few..." He was referring to the heroic efforts of the RAF pilots in their Spitfires and Hurricanes who were at the time fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe. With the Battle of Britain won a few months later and German invasion plans postponed, the Allied airmen of the battle ultimately became known as "The Few".
Fast-forward a decade and a half, when the baton was passed to a new generation of RAF fighter pilots: The Lightning Boys, who are the subject of this marvelous book edited by Richard Pike (himself a former RAF Lightning pilot). In 22 engrossing chapters (each written by a former "Lightning Boy"), we are drawn back to the 1960s and 1970s of the Cold War era, when supersonic English Electric Lightning fighter aircraft patrolled the skies over Britain and Europe, ever vigilant for unwarranted incursions by "the other side".
Although not an aviator myself, I was nonetheless intrigued by the wide range of personal experiences recounted by each of the Lightning Boys...tales of bravado, close shaves, humour, recklessness, humility, sense of duty, and finally awe at the incredible power of the Lightning. From the challenges of night flying, high-altitude refueling, disorientation at supersonic speeds, performing high-speed precision aerobatics, or bailing out at 10,000 feet, this book will make you believe that you are actually right there in the cockpit, making split-second decisions as G-forces hurl you back in your cramped fighter pilot's seat...
And when you suddenly realize that these truly were mere "boys" (many in their very early 20s) flying supersonic Lightnings in the honoured tradition of their WWII RAF predecessors, then each of these stories will take on a special significance. I highly recommend this engrossing book to anyone wanting to share the exploits of "the Few"--the Lightning Boys who were among the pioneers of supersonic jet fighter aviation.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2011
I bought this book for my father, who is a lightning pilot. He loves it as it shows lightning flying from an often unpublicised perspective. While I wouldn't say I'm a flying enthusiast, I found this book completely compelling. Each short story gives a glimpse into an unusual event that has happened to the pilot, often near death, certainly life changing. While these stories by their nature are exceptional, I loved the atmosphere created throughout the book, giving me an insight into my father's working life as a pilot and the bravery shown by these men and women. I highly recommend this read to everyone!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2012
For those who are interested in aircraft, especially the military aircraft of the RAF, there are many books available especially technical, about the physical hardware, but Richard Pike brings together tales from the actual pilots who flew this iconic aircraft, the English Electric Lightning. In this book there are tales where the pilots risked their lives, and tales that will bring a smile to your face. By reading this book you will get a seat of the pants picture of the Lightning aircraft, and in the process gain a deeper knowledge of this great machine, and perhaps visit the real thing on display at many museums such as RAF Cosford with the P1A prototype Lightning, or ZF579 being restored at the Gatwick Air Museum.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2011
Anyone interested in an era when the UK had a number of aeroplane manufacturers (before BAE bought them all and duly closed them down aided by government)this book stands out as a shining example of what we could produce. Perhaps not quite the best fighter aeroplane in the world but the most exciting. This book comes with the riveting tales from the pilots who flew them - what fun and hairaising excitement it must have been.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2012
A very readable collection of first-hand accounts concerning Lightning operations, covering most of the type's 28-year service career. From cold-war QRA interceptions, engine fire emergencies and mid-air collisions to gentler tales of in-flight refuelling and amusing airfield beat-ups the book's twenty-two chapters draw a revealing and nostalgic picture of what life was like living with the "Frightning" during the sixties, seventies and eighties.
Three appendices are included - a very useful production list detailing the different Lightning variants, an account of engineering aspects and a selection of potted biographies of some of the pilots mentioned in the book.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2011
An excellent read full of very interesting, informative and funny stories portraying life on the Lightning Squadrons from the perspective of those who flew this amazing jet fighter. Once you've picked this book up it will be very hard to put down.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The English Electric Lightning was an iconic supersonic interceptor of the Cold War era in service with the RAF from late 1959 (the Mk1) until final retirement in April 1988 (the longer-range Mk6). This 100% British fighter's distinctive design featured 2x RR Avon jet engines mounted in a staggered-stacked installation with the 2 compressors fed from a unitary air-intake in the nose, resulting in a deep but narrow fuselage with 25% lower drag than more conventional 2-engined designs, plus single-engined-fighter handling characteristics as a bonus.
Flying the Lightning was described by pilots as "being saddled to a skyrocket". The Lightning's party-trick was `standing on its tail' and climbing vertically to 36,000ft from a 450kn runway take-off. Pilots loved this awesome performance, but the phenomenal acceleration and climb was at the expense of alarming fuel consumption which restricted the aircraft's range, and the close proximity of the 2 engines could occasionally result in catastrophic fires if something went wrong in the fuel-feed system.
Each chapter of `The Lightning Boys' is written from the perspective of a different pilot who flew the aircraft during its 28 years of front-line service. The deep affection these guys had for their exhilarating but temperamental machines comes over strongly. Richard Pike has done a great job in putting these short stories together, each written in an engaging style at the same time entertaining but sometimes terrifying. They have the visceral feel of the factual, the quirkiness of this-really-happened. All the accounts describe situations which seriously tested the pilots' flying skills and quick-thinking; some experienced sudden failures of this cutting-edge technology which almost killed them.
Due to the complexity of these supersonic cold-war jets, the techie know-how & enormous sums of money required to maintain them in flying condition, no current example of an airworthy Lightning exists. Excepting those on static display in museums and a few with working engines which can be taxied but not flown under their own power, these wonderful aircraft seem to be now gone from the skies of world. We may never see their like take to the air again, which makes these personal recollections an invaluable historic record.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2012
I bought this book for my partner as a birthday present. He has been going to see the Lightning planes in Bruntingthorpe for years and I thought it would be the perfect pressie for him - I wasn't wrong! He was glued to it since opening the first page! He says it's a brilliant book and really puts in perspective how much fun the Lightning boys had and how hair raising some of the experiences they had were. I have yet to read it myself but will be doing soon.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2012
As a child in the sixties I lived near a Lightning station and was fascinated by military aviation. This book brought back memories and was hard to put down. Highly recommended