What's looking for a space on a shelf?
A missed future and a multi-faceted past
In recent years an increasing attraction at ScaleModelWorld has been the Crecy Publishing stand to which I am now magnetically attracted, as indeed I am to their stall at "Flying Legends" every year. The pleasure is at least twofold, and sometimes more; talking to those on the stands, not only the Crecy people but often authors - particularly those who feed my "What If?" needs - is always both interesting and enlightening, and there is frequently something *NEW* to take home and pore over at the end of the day (at SMW it nearly always gets an instant browse back at the hotel, and generally waved in front of a SIG member or three on the stand). Anticipation is of course a good part of the pleasure, nudged by a careful study of the Crecy brochure and their website, so I just knew I'd be in line for a Chris Gibson treatise on RAF transports of the 'sixties, and Tony Buttler's re-vamped volume on British warplane projects of much the same era. Sadly these were both slightly delayed; we were nearly there, or as my granddaughter says nearly nearly there, and I'm having an extra stocking specially enlarged to take them in time to let me retire to a little extra hibernation for a while.
Both of Crecy's latest that came back from Telford with me are slight variations on my usual reading. For the first, while at fourteen or thereabouts I was a big fan of Dan Dare my enthusiasm for exoatmospheric flight faded fairly rapidly in the following decade, hustled off stage by the increasing appearance of interesting prototypes and the occasional appearance of two or three in service markings; even without hindsight my highlight must have been - and probably still is - Treble-One's ultimate chorus line, with a little help from their friends. There was a proposed "space" use for Black Knight when it became clear that it would never serve as a weapon, but that faded, albeit with occasional grumblings, but it wasn't until I saw this cover of a coming book that I - and I suspect many others whose interests were aeronautical rather that astronautical - became aware of any further alternative. Incidentally impressive artwork is a powerful persuader, and indeed one of my substantial stable of hobby horses, for encouraging potential readers to consider subjects which they might otherwise pass lightly by. That triple-decker shown in this evocative painting had its origin in an investment of nearly half a million pounds each in mid-1965 to Hawker Siddeley and to the British Aircraft Corporation to study the possibilities of hypersonic speeds, encompassing amonst other avenues both the possibilities for reusable satellite launchers and "uncatchable" reconnaisance aircraft. This - volume 5 in Crecy's new and refurbished series on projects - centres largely on the BAC project P.42 in assorted shapes and under several designations, as well as some of its possible competitors from a variety of national and industrial sources.
The device shown is in effect three powered "lifting body" units fastened togther, and was BAC's principal solution to the requirement for a Multi-Unit Space Transport And Recovery Device (this inevitably became known as MUSTARD, and I would dearly like to know when in the planning the acronym appeared, with the strong suspicion that it was devised before the project was properly defined). Its development encompassed a considerable number of aerodynamic shopes and increasingly exotic powerplants, and one of the great pleasures of this book is watching their evolution, even though there is inevitable regret at the eventual lack of hardware. The parallel strand of post-TSR.2 reconnaisance designs is also followed, and illustrated by a selection of "What If?" illustrations, which also shows the increasing number of artists now working in this field (and of course I'm glad to see the use of appropriate unit markings). The space vehicle aspect receives similar treatment, and includes a piloted flying scale model of the MUSTARD vehicle, finished in an appropriate yellow, which would doubtless have caused heads to turn had it appeared at an SBAC display.
While there are perhaps less modelling possibilities here than in the companion volumes in this series which cover more conventional subjects, there are some fascinating shapes which will I hope attract the interest of Tony Grand at least! The story revealed in its several aspects by Dan Sharp rewards careful following, and poses in itself several "What If?" questions. There may be some of the technical developments that have progressed to successful conclusions, but I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that the whole tale peters out in failure, perhaps in part because of politics as much as technical prowess, in other countries besides Great Britain; and perhaps this it what makes it a fascinating tale, and one which is well worth reading.
Cranberries in various flavours
The second Telford treat is closer to my usual reading, and probably closer to whatever modelling I hope to get involved with in 2017 (and Airfix/Humbrol could be a major help in this!). In this volume the illustrations are of real airframes, accompanied by a considerable selection of line drawings which help to explain the reasons for the many lumps, bumps and prosthetic noses which appeared on English Electric's now classic jet through the second half of the last century. It diddn't take Bomber Command (and English Electric and friends) long to replace the early marks when the 6s and 7s became available, by which time several of the earlier marks had already been pressed in to use as powerplant testbeds.
For once in this series there's no need for computer generated images to astonish the reader, and as you would expect there's a considerable number of colour photos and many, many line drawings, not just of whole aircraft but also showing how and why these excresenses worked. The text also covers the origins of the need and the intended purpose of these devices, and the chapters are set out by function with their individual chronology. A particular fascination for me was the way in which some individual aircraft appeared to change mark; this was sparked by my meeting WT333 at Bruntingthorpe last year, built as a B(I).8 but wearing a B.6 style nose. Just about all the marks were treated in this way at some stage, even the sole B.5 "target marker" that morphed in to an 8. There are so many different colour schemes illustrated, and I suspect that the very photogenic "raspberry ripple" will appeal to many modellers. Of course if you model in 1:48th this will be a great help; why Airfix haven't produced their 2/6 in 1:72nd still baffles me. There are so many more units, users and schemes for these marks, I think Hornby's "economic" arguments are misguided; shelves full of Petter's straightforward, effective bomber/reconnaissance twin would I am sure be inevitable, and no doubt someone would revive the Model Alliance RAF squadron markings sheet.
Meanwhile, back at the book while this extremely active hobby horse of mine settles down again... I found the both concept and execution fascinating, not least bcause it's obviously been put together by an author with a profound interest in this previously uncovered subject. The production is to the always impeccable Crecy standard, and I advise you to have a seriously comfortable armchair in to which you can settle while you read it, a facility which also applies to the "British Space Shuttle" volume. And there's more; just as I finish writing up these, Chris Gibson's new book on British post-war RAF transprts has arrived; I will be getting comfortable in this between now and the New Year, and exercising my Deep Sigh capability in particular on the HS.681 (and I still have one of Mel Bromley's to tackle). Santa really has come just in time!
My memory has been known to lead me astray, but am I right in remembering that Blackbox was the RRE/Pershore aircraft r/t callsign?
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