Aviation Business: What are the best aviation books ever published?

There I was...the opening phrase of many a great aviation yarn…when I spotted…yep, same old tried and true formula…

…a link to this story ‘New Zealand training organisation develops UAV qualification‘ which in turn led me to the one I am ‘pressing’…Aviation Business: What are the best aviation books ever published?

I agree with the author that the published list looks just a little TOO British although top marks for slipping a Biggles tome in there and so, I thought, what would my top ten list look like? Or, hint, don’t come near one of my air power courses unless you’ve read at least half of them…

My number one would have to be the original 633 Squadron and I am just a little miffed that someone seems to have borrowed my very worn copy that dates back to the release of the movie…yes, I do have the four sequels by the same author but they are nowhere near in the same class as the original classic…

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From this point on, I don’t really have a pecking order so here are the Top Nine…

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Paul Brickhill’s The Dam Busters…a tale that STARTs with their most famous raid and tells the story from there through to the end of the war – the dams were just the the opening act for this mob…

galland

One of many books I added to the library while living in Singapore in the late 80s…a great pilot tells his story and that of a force that was built under a dark star…

old dog

Another Singapore acquisition…a great read for the dying days of the Cold War and, although we didn’t realise it at the time’ a great insight into the myth of precision combat that’s dogged us across the last two decades…Dale Brown’s later works tend to succumb to the angst of a junior officer who aspired to chest-poke the generals but just didn’t quite get round to it before departing the forces but this would have to be his best work by a good country mile…I bought the game for my first PC when in came out in 1991 (yes, 21 years ago and we DID have computers back then!!) and I still play it when I have the time…one of these days I will get one of those tablet thingummies and be able to play it wherever I go…

intruder

I don’t remember when I first read Flight of the Intruder but the game was another early 90s acquisition and I remember that it came with the novel – at the time the game was one of the most realistic around, despite its 2D wireframe graphics…the book is based on the author’s experiences as an A-6 pilot during the Vietnam War, and its sequel, The Intruders is almost as good (but just misses out on my top 10 this week – maybe #11…)

north sar

Gerry Carroll wrote three aviation novels before his premature death: North SAR, Ghostrider One and No Place to Hide, all covering different facets of the Vietnam Air War. Each is very good but North SAR is my personal favourite.

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Oh, yeah, baby..IF I was scaling my Top Ten, this would be #2 after 633 Squadron…I first read it as a Reader’s Digest abridgement in one of my Gran’s vast collection of Reader’s Digest bound volumes…if I thought the short version was great, I was blown away by the complete version when I found a copy in a book exchange when I was 12 or 13…This is one of a very few books that I would like to turn into a movie – maybe two because the story lends itself to various themes – I even started on a script once, before people started flying planes into buildings…

rugged

Another book exchange acquisition…yes, I know that Martin Caidin is now considered to not let reality stand in the way of telling a good story but that it no ways detracts from his telling of the early days of the Pacific Air War…rippingly good yarns…

thud

I remember reading Thud Ridge on my first trip to the US in 1988 and great lead-in to a visit to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson…a great story of airmen at war by one of the leaders…

…and finally…

big show

…as long as I can remember we had a copy of The Big Show in our crib at Waikouaiiti…and would have read it at least once every summer…I’ve heard that some low-browed individuals have criticised Pierre Closterman in later life for boosting his number of enemy aircraft ‘kills’ but, really, who gives a fat rats? There is no dispute that he flew hundreds of combat missions and did shoot down over 20 enemy aircraft and this is a great story well told that takes the reader from those early dark days after Dunkirk through to the post D-Day march across Europe…

I enjoyed sifting through the library to make up this list – in these items when the focus has been so much on land warfare in an irregular environment, and where the myth of precision endures, it is all too easy to forget the true rigours and realities of real air war…

Never say never…

…007 got that one right…The cat never goes outside…nope, not til this morning – all packed, ready to go..where’s the cat? Oh there’s Feral – outside – stalking something out by the compost heap…finally managed to entice the bloody thing inside and while I was chasing it around the house trying to get into the cat box, the dogs, who I’d let out to stretch their legs before we left decided to go for a walk…and here’s us having to have them at the kennel by 1200. Made it with 5 minutes to spare – an hour 50 from home to Sanson and fortunately nairy a cop in sight…

A couple of plugs from the trip down…we’ve got people staying in the Lodge this weekend and just after I left I realised that I had given them the wrong number for the keylock – uh-oh – didn’t have time to go back due to the kennel drop-off deadline and couldn’t quite get any of the email addresses right – why did I stop using a PDA, remind me – I was trawling through Levin looking for an Internet cafe and found a very helpful lady in Computer Whys who got me online to do my business – only been open since Tuesday; stopped for brunch (at 2 in the arvo) at the Paraparam Mall and a most helpful lady in the McDs put me onto the Angus burger (AWESOME!!) and then took the trouble to get my opinion afterwards – good service; and finally, after a year’s absence, I finally got back to Charmaines on Royal in Upper Hutt for a decent haircut and a catch-up gossip with the ladies. I was a regular there ever since I first moved to Wellington mid-90s and still remain loyal after shifting up the Mountain.

Had hoped to catch-up with Jim Veitch at Vic this weekend as a prelim to the Kilcullen visit next month but we couldn’t quite get it sorted – think I will have to make a trip to Welly in the next couple of weeks before we go to the UK on the 23rd. Have a growing list of commitments for the Thursday-Friday War including While YOU Were Sleeping for Josh, collating my thoughts on future war as per the challenge on Cheeseburger Gothic, and scratching out some thoughts on Amanda Lennon’s premise from Wednesday’s conference that Coalition interoperability promotes conceptual laziness…had high hops of doing ome work on these tonight but it’s such a cozy little place we’re staying in, with a decent collection of movies, and I got in latish from setting up the Expo that nup, that ain’t going to happen tonight…have already been through Star Trek: First Contact and have The Dambusters on now…

And a final word from our sponsor on Guy Gibson’s dog’s name…I wonder how many of the apparently-outraged also picked up that great classic kid’s story Huck Finn is chock-full of the N word…