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& Bullets

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


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Phantom Boys Vol 2

Richard Pike                  Grub Street           July 2017

It turns out there are easily enough nostalgic anecdotes about the Mighty Toom to fill another book in the Boys series. Unlike some companion volumes this is all written by the author – most Boys titles have an editor who merely hangs the stories together.


The good news is that Richard Pike can write well, and this is demonstrated in the first chapter, when he relates one of his own escapades in the machine, when he was practicing air combat manoeuvring. The second chapter is rather good too, when one Archie Liggat recounts meeting an Argentinian colonel, twice.


Another story demonstrates rather well the gulf in understanding between those that fly, and those that don’t , even within the same air force. A Phantom crew are nearly incinerated by the actions of some Rock Apes (members of the RAF Regiment) when a demonstration at Akrotiri goes wrong. Plenty of stories underline the hazards of peacetime flying: an ejection following a mid-air collision whilst in a five-ship formation is quite chilling.


There are enough references to an observant reader to remind us that the Phantom was one of the most maintenance-heavy types ever in RAF service  (I recall some appalling ratio like 150+ engineering hours per flying hour). But the incontinent beast was good to watch and apparently fun, if challenging, to fly.


One of the small downsides of this book is that there is less texture than in Boys titles where each chapter is (broadly) written by a different author. And Pike can over-write on occasions.


One last lingering thought – one chapter tells of the Vietnam experiences of a USAF pilot, only referred to by his initials – RG Head. He was not christened Richard by any chance?!


Phantom 2
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