About the current issue
Many aviation enthusiasts – plus book- and cinema-lovers worldwide – admire novelist Joseph Heller’s 1961 masterpiece Catch-22. But how many realise that it was based directly on the writer’s own vivid experiences as a 60-mission USAAF bombardier on B-25s in the Mediterranean during World War Two? In the cover story of this 18th quarterly issue of The Aviation Historian we profile Heller’s wartime career and gain an insight into the inspiration for characters including General Dreedle, Snowden the tragic gunner and morally-flexible quartermaster Milo Minderbinder.
Conflict of another kind looms elsewhere in this first TAH of 2017, notably in Professor Keith Hayward’s analysis of BOAC’s troubled procurement of the Vickers VC10, in which the elegant airliner was buffeted from all sides by the very different agendas of the airline, the aircraft industry and Britain’s politicians. And if that’s not enough confrontation for you, award-winning airline historian David H. Stringer tells the story of the USA’s National Airlines and its combative boss, Ted Baker. Baker just loved a scrap; when he and Eastern Airlines’ boss Eddie Rickenbacker went head-to-head, they became scorpions in a bottle, as David’s article illustrates.
Another alpha male unafraid to make his presence felt was General Curtis LeMay, who, as Robert Hopkins III explains in TAH18, appropriated an early Boeing KC-135 to prove the value of a cutting-edge VIP transport in a Cold War world. It is said that when a crew chief warned “Old Iron Pants” against smoking his ever-present cigar beside an aircraft while it was being refuelled, LeMay narrowed his eyes and replied, “It wouldn’t dare . . .”
In total contrast, we go back to 1930 and visit a high-society lightplane weekend at Belgium’s Château d’Ardenne – plus-fours, a vin d’honneur and a banquet upon arrival, anyone? Rare aircraft types in attendance included Caudron 193, Orta Saint-Hubert G.1 and Hanriot HD.14, while a SABCA-built Handley Page W.8 also dropped in to dwarf everything else.
Less than a decade later Europe was plunged into war again, and in this issue TAH Editorial Board member Robert Forsyth continues his history of the Luftwaffe’s Erprobungskommando 25, which tested ever more bizarre anti-bomber weapons. This instalment examines artificial air squalls, cable-bombs and “fire-clouds”.
Moving on to more modern times, Africa specialist Arnaud Delalande chronicles Zaïre’s not-altogether-successful use of the delta-winged Dassault Mirage fighter in the 1970s and 1980s; while, from the same period but a different world, historian W.A. “Bill” Harrison recalls a private-flying escapade in which he made what was almost certainly the first night alighting by a flying-boat in the UK since World War Two.
At TAH we love to present articles on little-known aircraft types, and in this issue Nico Braas tells the story of a rare failure by the mighty Fokker company: the S.13 twin trainer of 1950, which proved to be the wrong aeroplane at the wrong time. Britain was equally capable of producing real training turkeys, though, and Philip Jarrett uses recently-rediscovered flight-test documentation to spotlight the (thankfully) one-off Hillson Helvellyn.
All this and more is illustrated with rare archive photographs, information graphics, maps, profiles and scale drawings.
Nick Stroud, Editor