For the love of watching things fly. Witnessing the aircraft descend, bending onto final, then the steep drop to a water landing.
Spyplanes: the Illustrated History of Manned Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft from World War I to Today
Spyplanes: the Illustrated History of Manned Reconnaissance and Surveillance Aircraft from World War I to Today, Norman Polmar and John Bessette, 2016, ISBN 9780760350317, 240 pp.
One thing military, as well as political, commanders never have enough of is information—reconnaissance. Aviation brought a new dimension to reconnaissance (“recce”) and Spyplanes brings us the exciting history of these marvelous aircraft as well as their missions.
The authors (there are two primary and five accessory) fittingly use black throughout their book underscoring the secretive nature of recce flights. Secret for protection whether a spy flight in a U-2 or SR-71—or a post strike assessment flying immediately after a target has been hammered with the folks there fully alert, warmed up and eager to hit back. The end papers bring home the gravity of spyplane work showing an RAF serviceman running a freshly exposed film canister from a Bristol Blenheim photo ship as well as the famous low-level image of Russian ballistic missiles in Cuba which brought the world to its closest worldwide nuclear conflict (and possibly the shortest World War in history).
Spyplanes begins with balloons (prior to World War I) and ends with the conceptual Lockheed SR-72. Between these examples the book is in two parts which are entitled, Spyplane Operations and The Spyplanes with the latter part paying attention to each country in turn which heavily utilized aerial reconnaissance (Germany, Great Britain, Russia/Soviet Union and the United States). Of course the familiar aircraft are there and the authors describe them and their models in concise and flowing detail. Tantalizingly, the lesser known but equally required aircraft are also told of in the same concise flowing detail. Images and art abound, pleasing the eye as well as the writing pleases the hunger to know and understand the impacts of history’s events regarding aerial reconnaissance. Spyplanes changed history’s arcs countless times and this book tells the tale without favoring countries or with a bias toward the victors of war.
This is a lovely book to peruse and a treasure trove of sources to further research a subject area or aircraft. Some of the lesser known recce aircraft are the RB-69, RB-58, RF-86, Ilya Muromets, Ju 86 and Myasishchev M-4—to name a few. Naturally the Tu 95, SR-71, U-2, RF-8, de Havilland Mosquito and Canberra are addressed with the many other major league players in the recce profession. The gorgeous black-on-black SR-71 on the front cover makes this book perfect for a desk while its interior demands a place on any library shelf regarding aviation as well as military and political history.
Cockpit 2 Cockpit: Your Ultimate Resource for Transition Gouge, LtC Marc Himelhoch, 2016, ISBN 978-0692762813, 166 pp.
Lt. Colonel Himelhoch has written a book for military pilots from the U.S. Armed Services transitioning from military to commercial civilian flying (i.e., “the gouge”). No doubt the U.S. military trains the fortunate and deserving few in aviation piloting but civilian life is another dimension as compared to military life. Cockpit 2 Cockpit is written so that pilots retiring from military service can enter commercial aviation piloting with a plan. No reacting here—as the military does, train like you fight and fight like you train.
LtC Himelhoch’s approach is marked by experience and calculation with thought and effort placed where most effective. Check lists are especially handy (even to the number and costs of suits required for interviews). Indeed, this is the book for the transitioning professional pilot.
It is also the book for anyone making a career transition as Himelhoch’s strategy, thinking and detailed lists are aptly applicable, as well. The thinking and experience Himeelhoch easily exudes give confidence borne of observation and long periods of analysis. It also serves as a primer to seek anyone’s first, or next professional job.
From ROPs* to paperwork to advice on the good versus the bad people one will meet in the process of job hunting Himelhoch pens a lifetime of succesful experience. Like the excellent pilot he must be—his thinking is ahead of the airplane. This title is about action, not reaction, which is the better method utilized to be succesful. This book, in the final analysis, is first for the military pilot venturing into the gouge but is equally suited for any professional job seeker.
* Record of Performance and pronounced as “ropes”
The Projects of Skunk Works: 75 Years of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, Steve Pace, ISBN 9780760350324, 256 pp.
The Projects of Skunk Works may be Steve Pace’s best work with its loving attention to Lockheed’s history of aviation innovation and the alteration of history’s arc by these machines as well as those who crewed them. Sadly it may be his last work as he unexpectedly passed away this year.
What a work it is!
Steve Pace more than collected facts and data—he talked with people to get insights and the context of the times which he relates as wonderfully as anyone’s uncle. What people were thinking, fearing, or why they were exploring—all there for many pleasant reader experiences. There are the major projects like F-104, U-2 and SR-71 of course. Superbly, there are also the lesser known ones like the RB-69A and Project Wild Cherry in which so many reconnaissance crew perished during the 1950s. Wild Cherry is hardly mentioned in the history texts and won’t have its records declassified until after the year 2020—but Pace writes about it so we will know of it as well as the silent sacrifices of so many people.
Pace also writes of aircraft designs which did not leave the drafting tables but inspired nonetheless. Wonderful and inventive shapes with novel engine placements shown with stunning original artwork.
It would be hard to believe Pace missed a design or pertinent fact—even harder to believe he hasn’t perfectly described the historical impact of each design. This book is a testament to Lockheed’s place in aviation history as much as it is to an excellent author’s love for this work. The index, bibliography, art, photos and insets make this book a remarkable title for any library. It is a book for lighting fires of creation as much as for those who love aviation as well as its history.
The North American F-107A lost in the competition where the Republic F-105 Thunderchief prevailed but its Variable-Area Inlet Duct (VAID) technology was utilized in two equally rakish subsequent North American designs—the A-5 Vigilante and XB-70 Valkyrie. Evolution of VAID technology made its way to Lockheed’s SR-71, as well.