About the current issue
Here at The Aviation Historian we relish being different from the mainstream magazines in our field – hence we tend to avoid putting together issues based on a particular theme or anniversary. So, although fascinating subjects such as the Battle of Britain and the Avro Vulcan have been receiving extensive coverage in other publications recently, we prefer to focus elsewhere. Sometimes, though, connections between articles establish themselves independently of any great editorial masterplan. Several stories in this issue, for example, happen to mark significant anniversaries. Eighty years ago Qantas opened its first international air service, as related by David Crotty in his article on the often-painful development of the airline's Brisbane-Singapore D.H.86 Express service. Italian aviation historian Gregory Alegi marks the 75th anniversary of the controversial last flight of one of Italy's greatest aviators, Italo Balbo, with a fresh and detailed re-examination of his death in a shootdown incident in 1940; and 50 years on Melvyn Hiscock celebrates Pan Am Captain Charles Kimes's masterful handling of a severely stricken Boeing 707 loaded with passengers in 1965.
The last two both occurred on July 28, a quarter of a century apart – another of those curious connections. Fittingly for this, the 13th issue of our compact-format quarterly journal, luck – good and bad – plays an important part in both stories, fate dealing very different hands to the people involved in each.Variety is a hallmark of TAH, so other subjects covered in this issue include Saab J 29 operations with the United Nations in the Congo; Portuguese Hawker Hurricanes in the filming of Angels One Five; BEA helicopter trials in Central London; the unrealised potential of SNCASE's strange SE.100 fighter-bomber; the history of electrical company Philips's business-aircraft fleet; and Soviet experiments in putting wings on tanks. Take cover!
We also bid farewell to aviation pioneer Frederick Warren Merriam, whose Echoes From Dawn Skies series – taken from his long-lost unpublished book manuscript – has formed such an important part of each issue since we introduced it in TAH6. When it comes to connections, Merriam is unbeatable. One of Britain's first flying instructors, he knew them all: pilots, designers, captains of industry – everyone who was anyone in British aviation. We've been both privileged and delighted to be able to share some of the memories of Merriam and his companions – "maniacs!" – as he put it, thanks to his granddaughter Sylvia Macintosh. As Managing Editor Mick beautifully explains: "Reading the material today is the next best thing to teleporting back in time to share a pint with these remarkable men". To which I say "cheers!"
Finally, to return to the question of why we tend to avoid themes and anniversaries: it may seem wilfully (and commercially) perverse, but there is sound reasoning behind it. As seasoned enthusiasts ourselves, we like to offer our fellow seasoned enthusiasts an alternative route when other publications seem to be chasing a common bandwagon. Otherwise (to choose a different metaphor), the palate becomes quickly jaded by too restricted a menu. We also strive to make each issue of The Aviation Historian as timeless as possible, so that its value as a source of pleasure and a tool of reference lasts indefinitely.
Nick Stroud, Editor