Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
Fifty Years of Flying Fun
Grub Street, 2015
This man is a fighter pilot to his last nerve ending; more unusually, he can also write! After the briefest of introductions, Dean leaps straight into his RAF training – South Cerney, Leeming, etc. And then (after a holding at my old unit - Manchester UAS, Woodvale) he strides into what was the most beknighted career path of the time – Hunters in Fighter Command with 43 Sqn. Dean is either an underlying bad boy or a story magnet, because the stories begin to flow unceasingly in a very entertaining manner. Including for example, his almost shooting down an Ethiopian Airlines 707 with his rockets.
Dean has related some of these tales in magazine articles over the years, and there is occasional evidence of lax editing as he has cut and pasted some of these episodes. Dean’s comrades also seem to provide a continuous fount of stories – a colleague for example who put himself on 100% oxygen whilst taxiing so that he could ‘legitimately’ divert from El Adem to the more pleasurable Cyprus. Dean’s devil take the hindmost attitude carries on to the rest of his life, and the story of his proposal to his now wife is hilarious.
After his event-packed RAF career, Dean conjured various posts at the CAA (for which one might have thought he was temperamentally unsuited!). These culminated in being in charge of the General Aviation department. Sadly he completely glosses over this period of his life (perhaps it was rather dull by comparison). He does however dwell on his parallel activities of becoming one of the UK’s premier display pilots. He gives a very perceptive take on the relative dogfighting merits of the Mustang and the Hawk. Indeed one of the book’s most touching moments is when his son Duncan, by then also in the RAF, takes up Rod in a Hawk towards the end of the latter’s piloting career.
For current and recent pilots there is a great quote from the inimitable late Chris Freeman, then owner of Headcorn (now in the hands of his son): “F*** off dear boy – Spitfires don’t pay landing fees at Headcorn - a low pass when you leave will suffice”!!
This is one of the most entertaining pilot autobiographies to come my way – well done Rod!