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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Heathrow in Photographs

Adrian Balch          The History Press, May 2016

A pictorial history of the UK’s primary airport. There is nothing of its origins as an RAF field – the first photos start after WW2, when passenger facilities resembled some tented Syrian refugee camp.  The book is an unashamed exercise in nostalgia, and will appeal most to passengers, and possibly pilots, of a certain age. In my case it even carries a photo of the very aircraft, a BKS Avro 748, in which I first took to the skies. Many of the earlier photographs serve as a reminder that for many years the prime objective of the airport’s owners was passenger comfort rather than revenue maximisation.


Those who look back with fondness to the era of piston-engined airliners will be well rewarded. I also rather liked the illustrations of BEA and LHR written material through the ages. Occasional sightings of advertising billboards in the background remind the reader how much air fares have fallen in real terms as we have entered an era of mass transit (e.g. flights to Paris for £26 in the Eighties).


But, and there are several buts: the writer has a very clunky writing style. In essentially a picture book, space is always at a premium. It is odd therefore, and slightly unforgivable, that the modest amount of prose very frequently overlaps with what is said in the captions. Indeed the prose occasionally repeats itself in successive paragraphs. This book would have benefitted from much tighter editing.


The author has a somewhat nerdy obsession with BA’s frequently changing paint schemes.  A singular omission is any photographs taken from a flight deck of the airport seen on final approach. Oddly for a book written by someone with an air traffic background, there is no mention of the upgrading of the airport's radar and navaids over the years. Finally, the author’s spotter outlook is all pervasive. The book therefore, whilst containing many interesting photographs,  represents something of a missed opportunity.


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