Per Ardua...

...Training an RAF Phantom Crew, from Fonthill Media

Title: Per Ardua
Author: Philip Keeble and David Gledhill

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-712-9

 

This is one for those of us who remember the Cold War, and the Phantom in its' heyday. I remember when I was a youngster and dreaming of being a pilot in the RAF but my eyesight knocked that idea on the head. Here we have the story of a pilot (Philip Keeble) and navigator (Dave Gledhill) and their route through their training to when they made it to be Operational aircrew on the mighty Phantom.

For both of the authors it goes though their initial selection for aircrew, and with Philip, his basic flying training. From the first days with 'square bashing' and basic discipline, then on to initial flight training on the de Havilland Chipmunk (now long replaced in that role, though one remains in use by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight). Then on to his first jet, the Jet Provost Mk 4. Things move on through the Folland Gnat, the Jet Provost Mk 5 and a mix of other aircraft types. As well as basic flying, emergency procedures, formation flying, weapons and combat training are all explained, and we see why flying training is so drawn out and expensive. Meanwhile Dave was learning the Navigator role, and training on both the Varsity and the Dominie.  Both authors have a light touch in their writing, and while there is a lot of serious work, there are a number of what I'd describe as 'light touches' throughout the book. You'll have to read it to see how night flying, air-to-air refuelling all get a certain treatment. Even once posted to a Phantom squadron they still had to go through the Operational Conversion Unit first before they could take their place on the front line of a fast jet squadron. There is flying off the coast of the UK, deployments to the Mediterranean, flying with NATO partners, flying in (West) Germany and the QRA (Quick Reaction Alerts) in Scotland and more.

The book is a thoroughly enjoyable read, factual and informative as well as amusing in places, a real insight to life in the RAF during the Cold War. The final chapters compare their Phantom experience to what it is like today, with more modern computer assisted systems and right at the end, a letter from a 10-year old about how he imagines he wants to be an RAF pilot when he grows up. For any military aviation enthusiast I can only encourage you to read this book, it was one I couldn't put down.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.

Robin