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& Bullets

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


With reviews of books that cover these topics


View from the Cockpit

-Flying Military Aircraft


Tim McLelland

The History Press, 2014

ISBN 9780752490021


A strange book. McLelland is not a pilot, he seems primarily to be a (very good) cameraman who has fallen into the select camp of those who have blagged more than their fair share of rides in (predominantly British) military fixed wing aircraft. Rotary stuff is notable by its absence. The style will appeal primarily to non-pilots (“wannabes” in the trade). Pilots will be put off by the laboured treatment of some topics, such as stalling, and tripping up over the use of acronyms (eg “ACA” for when he means AOA). He very often uses the instructor’s “patter” of his pilot to form the narrative, and McLelland misleads the lay reader – the technique described for a max rate turn is not unique to the Tucano (which he is describing at the time), it is more or less universal. He mistakes checks of the compass and the DI, and I am not certain he understands the secondary effect of aileron. All this will bypass the lay reader, but if he brings in such topics, they should be correct.


The book is broadly shaped as the transition through the RAF’s training system from the most basic aircraft to the most complex. Yet he starts with a lengthy exposition of flying in the Chipmunk, which ceased to be the RAF’s basic trainer in 1975 or so. He does not therefore give a flavour of the RAF’s current training system, and misses the subject of holding tours for junior pilots entirely – it becomes clear that the framework of the book is just write-ups of trips he has enjoyed. By the same token this means the book will have some nostalgia appeal to older RAF types – he talks fondly of Chivenor for example.


I found the most interesting parts of the book were where McLelland quoted at length verbatim from pre-mission briefings – these give a very good feel for the professionalism of military pilots. (A USMC Harrier mission is the best example of this). On the other hand for a book covering exclusively military flying, it is a banter-free zone – which paints a very bland picture of the other aspects of military aviating! His style most definitely errs to the serious. Each chapter he describes in detail the strapping in procedure: if we have heard once about the PEC (Personal Equipment Connector), we read it twenty times. Ditto with the function of leg restraints in the ejection sequence. Odd.  He also becomes repetitive on the subject of G limitations.


There are some terrific photos (some from MoD and USAF sources). Presumably for production efficiency (ie cost) reasons, the colour ones are clumped at the book’s end. No credits are given, so much of the patter is anonymous.


As I said, mainly for the layman, and with reservations.

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