Most helpful positive review
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Scary, entertaining, hilarious; the poignant stories of RAF pilots in the Cold war, in their own words
on 1 June 2014
This volume is a collection of around 100 stories from Royal Air Force pilots recounting their personal experiences flying various aircraft in the Cold War period between about 1950 and 1990. Almost all are written in the first person by the pilot involved.
The selection and editing process is so good that almost all the accounts are highly entertaining, often astounding, and extremely well written with literacy, humour and economy of language. Some of these incidents made the national news, but most are told here for the first time. Examples which linger in the memory: the Hunter pilot who flew under the span of Tower Bridge in Central London on a weekday after buzzing Parliament to protest against government budget cuts in Air Force spending and who, on landing, had to insist himself that he be put under arrest for safety violations as no-one else would do it; the maintenance engineer who inadvertently took to the air in a Lightning minus canopy, with the ejector seat safety pins locked in and the undercarriage locked down which forced him to learn how to fly through the circuit and land it - or die; the Hunter pilot who ejected into the sea near Tintagel following an engine malfunction and whose aircraft subsequently crash-landed in the High Street, miraculously causing no injury (except to the pilot, who suffered spinal injuries on ejection from which he eventually recovered).
Flying high-performance military aircraft is a dangerous business and the RAF suffered a number of flying fatalities during this period, to be expected in an Air Force with an unrivalled reputation for low-level high-speed combat flying. The focus of these stories however is the lucky escape, the almost-ended-in-catastrophe-but-didn't flying incident, and this leaves the reader with a feeling of warm appreciation and relief, able to see the humour in the situation rather than the tragedy.
Some of the stories contain quite a lot of technical aviation jargon as the pilot concerned feels the need to explain exactly what led up to the particular incident, but most may be read right off the bat and enjoyed by the non-flying, non-techie reader. The episodic format enables you to pick it up, read a couple of the stories, and put it down again.
The book is published by Halldale for free, and sponsored by BAE Systems and CAE. 100% of the proceeds of sale go to the RAF Benevolent Fund, not just the marginal profit on publishing cost, so you needn't begrudge the cover price: you're donating to charity by buying it, and a worthy one at that.