31 August 2016

Book Review - Fighting Cockpits

  • Fighting Cockpits, In the Pilot's Seat of Great Military Aircraft from World War I to Today
  • Text by Donald Nijboer, photography by Dan Patterson
  • Published by Zenith Press, Quarto Publishing Group USA, printed in China, 1 June 2016
  • 12.25" X 10" (cover size) hardback
  • 224 pages, including bibliography and an index
  • Cdn$48.00, US$40.00, £25.00

Fighting Cockpits is the latest work from the team of aviation historian Donald Nijboer and photographer Dan Patterson. The two have collaborated before on other books in this series, Cockpit: An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Interiors, Gunner: An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions and Cockpits of the Cold War. This new work, just published in June 2016, covers a wider period of aviation history, ranging from the First World War to jet fighters of the 21st century.

With a hardback cover size of 12.25" X 10", 224 velum pages and at a gross weight of 3.7 lbs (1.7 kg), this is quite a large work. In fact it is curiously a slightly larger format than the previous Cockpit and Gunner books, which measure 12.25" X 9.25".

Fighting Cockpits also features a foreword by legendary RN test pilot Eric M. Brown, who also contributes some aircraft impressions to the text as well. Brown died during the work completing this book, on 21 February 2016, at age 97.

Each chapter includes an introduction to the historical period to set the stage, plus a list of typical things that an aviator would find in his aircraft's cockpit during that period. The entries for each aircraft generally run two to four pages, starting with Nijboer's brief history of the type, its development and operational employment. This is followed by Pilot Impressions, by pilots who have flown the type. Some are by operational military pilots, some by test pilots, like Brown, who were given the job of evaluating the aircraft for military purposes and some by museum pilots who fly them today. The second page of each entry then features Patterson's photo of the cockpit, usually taken from the pilot's point-of-view. Most of these have been shot in museums and so Patterson has blacked out the view forward, which would have otherwise shown other museum aircraft or building walls. The result is that distractions are eliminated. One exception is the Grumman EA-6B Prowler, shot on an airfield ramp, which needed no black-out treatment.

The book is organized by historical period. The first section is Wind in the Wires, which deals with First World War aircraft. Included are the Nieuport 28, Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5, Bristol F.2B, Fokker Dr.I, Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Triplane, AEG G.IV, SPAD VII, Halberstadt CL.IV and the Fokker D.VII.

Between the Wars, The Rise of the Monoplane, covers the interwar period and the switch in military aviation from biplanes to monoplanes. It includes the Martin MB-2 bomber, Hawker Hind, Fiat CR.32, Boeing P-26 Peashooter, Curtiss F9C, Sparrowhawk, Vought SB2U Vindicator, Westland Lysander and the PZL P.11.

World War II, Death At 30,000 feet is the longest chapter and covers the Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf 109, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, North American P-51 Mustang, Handley Page Halifax, Vickers Wellington, Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Fairey Firefly, Fiat CR.42, Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, Heinkel He 219 Uhu, Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu, Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, Northrop P-61 Black Widow, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Dornier Do 335 Pfeil, Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe jet fighter and the Arado Ar 234 Blitz twin jet bomber.

Cold War to the Present, Mutually Assured Destruction, includes the North American F-86 Sabre, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Grumman A-6 Intruder, General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, Hawker Siddeley Harrier, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-29, Rockwell B-1 Lancer, Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and finally the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which was just entering military service as the book was published.

The majority of the entries then have a few operational photos that show the general layout of the aircraft, its shape and markings. A few of the entries, like the Halberstadt CL.IV, Martin MB-2 and the Fiat CR.42, have no other photos beyond the cockpit images. This is unfortunate, as these are rare types and many readers will be sent scurrying to Wikipedia to see what the aircraft looks like in overall view. Even a small inset photo of the whole aircraft in an unused corner of the full-page cockpit photo would have been appreciated.

The book has lots of detail, both in Patterson's immaculate photographs and in Nijboer's descriptive text, including his notes on the evolution of ergonomics and cockpit instrumentation over a hundred years of aircraft building.

This book has some overlap in aircraft types with the team's 1998 book, Cockpit: An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Interiors, as some aircraft, such as the Mustang, Me 109 and Spitfire appear in both books, but there is all new text, along with new cockpit photos, too, for each entry.

Some people may not see the value of a book like this, as it is pictures of museum aircraft, which can been seen by anyone visiting the museum, but the book does offer two distinct advantages. First this collection was assembled from a large number of museums, including Ottawa's own Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Rockcliffe, the Swedish Air Force Museum, The New England Air Museum, the National Museum of the US Air Force, the RAF Museum and of course the Smithsonian. A few were shot on air base ramps, like the Grumman EA-6B Prowler, photographed on the ramp of the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. A person would have to do a lot of travelling to see in person the aircraft that Patterson has photographed.

The second factor that this book gives the reader something you can't generally get from a museum visit, the view from the pilot's seat. While a couple of cockpit shots were done from outside the aircraft, like the Arado Ar 234 Blitz, the rest are shot from the pilot's perspective, something not many museums afford the casual visitor. Creating a book like this obviously grants special access to the aircraft that the public just doesn't routinely get. That is worthwhile, alone.

Fighting Cockpits is a book that will appeal to aviation history buffs of all ages. Engineers and aircraft designers may also find it of interest, to trace the history of cockpit ergonomics and see how many earlier aircraft were designed in such a way that pilots had to learn to fly them, despite the designer's work.

I am hoping that the team of Nijboer and Patterson will one day turn their talents to general aviation aircraft past and present and bring us a view of the cockpits of light aircraft, gliders, motor gliders, gyroplanes, airships, helicopters, air tankers, crop dusters, flying boats, amphibians, hang gliders, homebuilts, ultralights and the other small aircraft found around the world.

External links

01 August 2016

Hanover Fly-in Flea Market

The organizer of the Aerobatic Competition that is being held At CYHS (Hanover Saugeen Municipal Airport) during the same time period, 20 and 21 August 2016 as the Flea Market, is submitting NOTAMS this week. The Airport is open all day during the competition. The competition “Air Box” is to the west of the airport.

Please check the NOTAMS before flying into CYHS.

Book Review - Brace For Impact

  • Brace For Impact - Air Crashes and Aviation Safety
  • By Peter Pigott
  • Published by Dundurn Press, Toronto, 2016
  • 7" X 10" paperback
  • 272 pages, including notes and an index
  • $29.00 (paper and PDF) $14.99 (EPub)

Brace For Impact is Ottawa-based author Peter Pigott's 20th book and his 14th on an aviation subject. This certainly makes him one of Canada's more prolific aviation authors.

This new work tackles the subject of aircraft accidents and in particular Canadian aircraft accidents, although for perspective some notable accidents in other countries are touched upon. The book covers a history of Canadian aviation accident investigation, including the agencies and some of the people involved, the politics, the technology and, of course, describes many of the key aircraft accidents that have occurred.

The book has 18 chapters, interweaving the accident stories with the history of how the profession of aircraft accident investigation has progressed, as accident numbers and their complexity increased. The author especially focuses on how the introduction of cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders has allowed the investigation of large aircraft accidents to be greatly improved.

Starting from the very first pioneering accidents in the very early 20th century, the book covers the First World War, the post-war barnstorming era, the beginnings of the airmail and the early airline passenger flights. Additional chapters cover civil transport in the Second World War, the coming of the jet age and the inevitable discussion of the early deHavilland Comet crashes as well as the landmark mid-air collision between an RCAF Harvard trainer and a Trans Canada Airlines North Star over Moose Jaw.

Accidents that get detailed treatment in the book include the Trans Canada DC-8 crash in Sainte Therese, Quebec on 29 December 1963; the Canadian Pacific DC-8 crash at Toyko's Haneda airport on 4 March 1966; the collision of two 747s on the ground at Tenerife, Canary Islands on 27 March 1977, which remains the biggest loss of life air accident ever, with 583 people killed; the Pacific Western 737 crash at Cranbrook on 11 February 1978; the Air France A340 runway overrun at Toronto on 2 August 2005; the Arrow Air crash at Gander on 12 December 1985; the Air Ontario Fokker F28 crash at Dryden on 10 March 1989; the Nationair DC-8 crash in Saudi Arabia on 11 July 1991; the Swiss Air 111 crash of an MD-11 off Peggy's Cove on 2 September 1998; the First Air 737 crash at Resolute Bay on 20 August 2011 and finally the Air Canada A320 crash at Halifax on 29 March 2015.

Also covered is the demise of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board and its replacement with the Transportation Safety Board and some of the reasons for that change. The author also tackles the transfer of the nation's ATC to Nav Canada, citing its closure of facilities as a cause factor in the crash of several aircraft, including the mid-air collision of two Cessnas at Maschouche on 7 December 1997 after a portable control tower there had been decommissioned and the Air Canada CRJ crash at Fredericton, after the control tower had been replaced with what the author terms "a less expensive 'flight servicing station'".

The author saves some of his most scathing criticism for Michel Leblanc, a Canadian airline CEO, he describes as "callous" and "lacking ethics", as an example of how a top-down corporate culture can contribute to safety issues in airliner operations.

As can be seen from the list of accidents, the majority of coverage in this book is of airline flying, with mention of a few military accidents, like the Canso that crashed in Ottawa's Lac Deschênes in July 1945, with five crew members killed. General aviation is represented in a few of the case studies, including the interesting example of a mid-air collision between a Beechcraft Bonanza and Piper Cherokee over Warrington, Virginia, on 28 May 2012. Both aircraft were US-registered and the accident happened over the US, but the TSB was asked to investigate, as the two pilots involved were an FAA accident investigator and the NTSB's chief medical officer. The Canadian agency was asked to investigate to eliminate any potential conflict of interest in having the US NTSB handle the case. The TSB determined that it was a failure to "see and avoid" on both pilot's parts.

Piggot starts off the book with an invocation against the media and their tendency to sensationalize aircraft accidents. He writes on page 11, "because air crashes are so infrequent (compared with the daily carnage on the highways), when they do happen, they make for gut-wrenching, fear-inducing headlines and dramatic images." On page 65 he emphasizes the point over the Hindenburg crash in 1937, "the media's first resort in an air crash is to sensationalize it, and there was no better way in this case than to suspect sabotage." Of course the Hindenburg was brought down by far less dramatic reasons than sabotage. But with chapter titles like "Douglas Death Cruisers and Mourning Becomes Electra", "Terror in Tenerife, Pilot Error", and "Air Traffic Chaos" as well as "Nationair and ValuJet: Folly Upon Folly", I am not sure the author has entirely escaped this effect.

The book is generally well-written and illustrated, with many black and white, as well as colour photographs. It is an engaging read. One of the questions I asked myself while reading the book was who the target audience is. While light aircraft pilots may read this book, the focus on airline accidents and the lack of technical detail on accident causes makes this book of limited use as a flight safety text, for understanding accidents and learning to avoid them operationally. There are some technical errors in the text that non-pilots often make in writing aviation books, too, such as the description of a pilot increasing power and attempting to climb by pulling "the control throttle all the way back". As an aviation history book this work will appeal most to the aviation history buff.

External links

30 July 2016

Oshkosh 2016 Photo Gallery

Flight 8's Mike Shaw is in Oshkosh with his wife, Gail, for the fly-in and sent some photos, despite the rain and cooler temperatures that they have seen.

12 July 2016

Book Review - Canadian Aviation Weather

  • Canadian Aviation Weather, First Edition
  • by Captain Doug Morris
  • Published by Avmet Weather Consulting, Oakville, Ontario, September 2015
  • 8.5" X 11" paperback
  • 340 pages, including an author's biography
  • $69.95

Canadian Aviation Weather is the first aviation textbook that I have been asked to review. Up until now, most of the works sent to COPA for review have been history books or at least books of aviation stories, so this was something new, landing with a 1.03 kg (2.3 lbs) thump on my desk.

My first thought was, "why do we need a new textbook on aviation weather?" The author makes his case, "this book will fill the massive void that existed in Canada regarding a solid up-to-date discourse on meteorology for Canadian pilots." And he really is right in that regard. I mean, despite his homage to the legendary work, Weather Ways, on page 255 of this new book, some things have changed since my copy came out. Like the author, my copy of Weather Ways is marked "third edition, 1961". We now have weather radar, lightning detection, Nav Canada, climate change and a far better understanding of many things meteorological, from volcanoes to space weather. So I agree with the author, that the 21st century calls for a new weather text.

It is hard to argue that there is anyone more qualified to write this book than Doug Morris. Morris is an Air Canada captain on A320s, with more than 21,500 hours in the air. Like most of us, he started on small aircraft and worked his way up in the industry, flying light piston twins on courier flying in Atlantic Canada, yes, right in all that weather they get down east. Being a high-time pilot alone, though, does not qualify one to write weather text books. This is where Morris sets himself apart, as he worked for four years as a weather forecaster for Environment Canada, in a diversity of assignments, including writing east coast aviation forecasts, so he has seen the business from both sides. In fact it was his time as a forecaster that motivated him to learn to fly, something few pilots will be able to fault.

In more recent years Morris has become a writer on meteorology, while carrying on his piloting duties, writing for publications such as Air Canada's enRoute, Wings, Canadian Aviation and Weatherwise. He also gives talks to public audiences on weather, as well as aviation safety topics and gives weather training to new hires at Air Canada, too. Sometimes, when the weather is in the news, he gets the media call to be "an expert weather guru", so you may have seen him on TV as well.

So what is in the book? This is a beginner's book of aviation meteorology, aimed at people on the private pilot course, so Morris starts from the beginning, with a large number of short, sharp chapters, numbering 36 in all, including the three appendices. The topics start with the basics, like the atmosphere, stability and lapse rates, clouds, atmospheric pressure and then work into fog, visibility, air masses, fronts, wind shear, airframe icing, turbulence and thunderstorms, before delving into the reading of METARs, TAFs, GFAs, SIGMETs, AIRMETs, FBs (formerly FDs - wind aloft forecasts). From there the book shifts gears and the author presents a broad look at Canadian regional weather, where to find good met stuff on the internet, reading weather charts and understanding jet streams. He then moves into how ground and airborne weather radar work and how to use both. Next is satellite imaging, dealing with hurricanes and post-tropical storms, how space weather affects circumpolar flying and a chapter on volcanic ash. Yes, he even mentions the April 2010 Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull eruption and the air travel havoc it caused, not to mention the havoc in the news rooms where on-air news readers had to pronounce it. Finally there are appendices on airport identifier codes, RVR and the use of UTC time in weather.

Traditionally aviation weather texts have been, well, a bit dry to read. Most student pilots expect that, after all meteorology is a science subject and there is lots to learn and just plain memorize. Morris seems determined to crack that stereotype and produce a weather book that is actually interesting to read. He accomplishes this mostly with small anecdotes from his own flying career interspersed on almost every page as "sidebars" with their own little "smiling airliner" logo. In these he attempts to relate the book knowledge with occasions when when the lessons were brought home for him, poignant thoughts and minor asides on how the information is relevant and useful. Overall these make the subject much more lively and personal and will probably increase retention for readers as well. There are enough biographical and aviation stories interspersed in the text that by the time you are done you have a feeling that you know the author quite well.

Morris' pure passion for meteorology shines through the text, too. You can tell he has a great deal of enthusiasm for the subject and that can be pleasantly infectious for the reader, making a complex subject more readable and fun. In several places in the book he gets into technical details that are out of the depth required by pilots, which is just his meteorologist side taking over the writing. In many cases he stops himself, indicating that he acknowledges that he is off on a tangent and ends the subject there. I found these places in the book really detract a bit. I don't mind more depth than is needed in aviation meteorology, but it would be better to either pursue that line of inquiry or not put it in at all, rather than start and then quit, but this is a minor quibble on my part.

Like a number of books I have reviewed recently, this book is self-published by the author and printed by Lulu.com. This probably says more about the sad state of book publishing in Canada these days, than anything about the quality of this work. Here we have a well-recognized and highly qualified subject expert, who has written a much-needed textbook, did a good job at it, assembled a good team of expert reviewers, copy editors and even a graphic artist to do the more than 150 diagrams and illustrations, and he has to publish it himself, without further assistance. Canadian publishers and the administrators of the various government publishing support programs in place really need to back up and have a better look at what is being published in Canada these days and why they are not both doing more. That said, the good news is that the book is available from some well-known aviation booksellers in Canada, including VIP.

My criticisms of the book are few. Despite the team of expert and copy editors, a few grammatical errors slipped through. Hopefully these will be cleared up in the second edition. The book lacks the one thing that would be quite useful in a paper book, an index. Again, hopefully a future edition will add this feature.

So who will want to read this book? It is clearly aimed at PPL, CPL and ATPL student pilots, plus those pursuing an instrument rating. It is skewed towards jet airline flying, more than general aviation ops, so the ideal reader would be someone with those aspirations, although student pilots with any flying goals at all will find the book useful and very readable. I have to admit, as an old time pilot with three decades of flying behind me and with more than a dozen civil, military and academic meteorology courses, too, that I learned quite a lot from reading the book. This makes me think that just about every pilot, new and old, should read it, unless you really think you already know everything about meteorology. I would also say that this book would make a good gift for any budding young "met nut", who will learn not only meteorology, but probably catch some of the author's infectious affinity for the subject. This book would also benefit people in other areas of endeavour where understanding the weather is critical, such as sailors, and even all those people we see in many parts of Canada wearing shorts and sandals in January.

External links