Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
Fast Jets and Other Beasts
Ian Hall Grub Street, August 2017
This is a ‘Son of the Boys’ title, if that makes sense. You will no doubt by now be familiar with the “…. Boys” series from Grub Street. Ian Hall has contributed to a few of these volumes but has now come forward with his own aviation autobiography. The main types covered are Hunter, Phantom, Jaguar, F5A (exchange tour with the Noggies), and Tornado – so he has arguably enjoyed the heyday of the RAF’s post-war era.
Ian gained extensive Hunter experience. He makes an interesting comment in the light of the infamous UK Shoreham crash, calling the type “an engineer’s nightmare”, not that engineering faults were primarily behind that accident.
Ian has a deft style, and a rich vein of stories to mine. He is not averse to borrowing some from his mates (that is one of their purposes, surely?). Martin Selves provides a classic – being taken by a Norwegian QFI in a F5 2-seater, who lost them over Sweden. Now of course, booze is expensive in Scandi land, and service pilots have been known to enjoy the odd jar. It is no surprise therefore to learn of the RNAF’s booze running antics, which surprisingly also included small fast jets such as the F5.
There is also plenty of hands-on-stick narrative: pilots will enjoy, no perhaps that is the wrong word, “find interesting”, the story of a Jag flicking into an unintentional spin during a practice combat.
Any book such as this is an invitation for the author to wallow in nostalgia. Hall eventually succumbs around page 174, when he (justifiably) waxes lyrical on the demise of Coltishall, the only Battle of Britain station in Norfolk, and the spiritual home of the Jag Force. He does nostalgia well.
Transitioning to an airline career unsurprisingly lowers the colour levels in the prose. The final pages are a rearward look at the changes he has seen during his aviation career, and are perhaps a bit too extended. But one should not carp, for the preceding material is well written; this book will entertain pilots and armchair pilots alike.
The occasional error has crept in: e.g. referring to “flow errors” (in the UK low flying system) rather than “arrows”.