Fifty Years of Flying Fun - From the Hunter to the Spitfire and Back Again

Review by John Baxter

Every now and then, a book comes my way which can only be described as ‘for reading pleasure’. Now, I enjoy reading, but the majority of the books I review tend to deal with military aspects and while I especially enjoy the privilege of having review copies, few could be termed as ‘books for pleasure’, rather they are more books for ‘education’. This book, however, is an exception. So, it’s a nice change to read, enjoy, then review.

Written by former RAF pilot Rod Dean, it’s a laminated hardback with dustjacket, 220 pages, plenty of b&w photos throughout plus forty-two colour photos (many air-to-air) of the wide variety of aircraft he’s flown, including warbirds. Published by Grub Street, London, in 2015. ISBN 9781909808270.

Mainly anecdotal, it brings to mind many of the experiences of former work colleagues – former RAF, RN Fleet Air Arm and RAAF flight crew – which were shared with me in down times at work within Air Traffic Control. One has to wonder at both the good luck and often extraordinary flying skills that enabled so many of these then young men to ‘survive’! This is not dis-similar.

It’s a good read covering the period from 1962 to the present with in service Hunters and Jaguars and some other types in between. The early RAF days cover the slow withdrawal of British forces from ‘East of Suez’. It wasn’t entirely a peaceful period but with Rod Dean’s stints to Aden, Bahrain and Oman, things weren’t dull. There’s a bit on Red Flag, time in Germany and then moving on from the RAF in late 1983 to other flying pursuits – in a variety of jobs within American Air Lines Training Limited, Civil Aviation Authority (UK), Air Safety Support International Limited, Farnborough International Limited and finally Aviation Consultant with many types of aircraft flights, especially the warbirds, and more anecdotes. Absorbing and delightful tales.

It’s amusing, enjoyable and highly entertaining. I unhesitatingly recommend it for some light, not too technical, fun reading. It does make for a pleasant change and it’s always great to learn of people who manage to find the right employment where money isn’t the driving cause.

It is available from Hyland’s Bookshop in Melbourne www.hylandsbookshop.com.au or 03 9654 7448 for about $50.

Many thanks to Mr Trent Watkins of Capricorn Link and Neil at Hylands Bookshop for the review copy.