Book Review: “Carrier Pilot”

Carrier Pilot
By: Norman Hanson
Patrick Stephens Ltd. (1979)
Silvertail Books (2016)

This book is considered by many notable authors and critics to be one of the best pilots’ memoirs of the Second World War.

The author, Norman Hanson, served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as a pilot of Vought Corsair fighters in the Pacific Theatre of Operations and this book follows him from recuitment into the service to commanding officer of a fighter squadron.

He gives very good insights into the various aircraft he flew from the basic trainers he experienced in America to the Fairey Fulmar that he trained and qualified for carrier operations in. Ultimately, the Corsair fighter itself gets the spotlight and it’s a very enlightnening look at real life operations with the legendary carrier borne fighter in both shipboard and land based operations.

The book balances levity and poignancy particularly well. Efforts made to break up off duty boredom are interspersed well against sad tales of losing friends in battle or to accidents.

The unforgiving nature of the Corsair fighter is highlighted many times. Very clearly, it was not a machine that tolerated a lot of cockiness or complacency from the pilot.

The book is a very enjoyable read overall; the only thing I can bring against it is that it contains a fair bit of slang that is either period or service specific and some explanatory footnotes would not have gone amiss for those not familiar with it.

I definitely recommend this book for carrier aviation fans, Fleet Air Arm fans and those who like a well written combat memoir.

This link will take you to the book’s page on the Silvertail Books website:

http://www.silvertailbooks.com/portfolio-post/carrier-pilot/

 

Book Review: “Ol’ Shakey”

Ol’ Shakey: Memories of a Flight Engineer
By: Byron Gene Fish
Outskirts Press (2013)

Through the 1950s and 1960s, the distinctive looking Douglas C-124 Globemaster II was the primary heavy lift aircraft of the U.S. Air Force. It was a bulky, hulking aircraft that was difficult to mistake for anything else on a flightline of the period.

It was also a very distinctive aircraft from a standpoint of operating it and had a habit of keeping crew members, particularly flight engineers, alert and busy with a myriad of mechanical idiosynchrasies.

This book gives one a very good overview of the training involved to become a flight engineer on “Ol’ Shakey” as the C-124 was nicknamed in service. It also examines how crews had to have complete trust in each other to operate the aircraft effectively and what could happen if that trust was compromised.

The book also details a range of scenarios that were typical  when working with the aircraft, such as crawling through a maintenance tunnel that ran through the wings in order to examine and service the engines in flight.

Beyond the aircraft itself, the book also gives the reader an idea of what the crews experienced at the various spots around the world they flew the aircraft into. It also gives one a feel for what the inter-service and inter-unit politics and rivalries of the time could be like.

Most of what is in this book are solid flying stories, though there are a few stories of off duty clowning about to add comic relief to the mix.

As it deals with the transport mission, it’s not the most exciting book you’ll find. Nonetheless, it is an accessible and informative read from a very qualified voice on the subject.

The author, Byron Gene Fish, spent the bulk of his professional life in aviation with many of those years spent at the flight engineer station of the C-124 aircraft.

This link will take you to the book’s profile on the publisher’s website:

https://outskirtspress.com/webpage?isbn=9781478716907#details