Vulcan Test Pilot: My Experiences in the Cockpit of a Cold War Icon. By Tony Blackman. London: Grub Street, 2007. Photographs. Illustrations. Appendices. Glossary. Index. Pp. 224. $39.95 ISBN: 1-904943-88-4.
Tony Blackman explains his book as "about what we did to make the Vulcan work, what we did to sort out all the problems and how we managed to make it a safe and also delightful aircraft to fly." He spent many years flying Vulcans, first in a flight test role as a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and subsequently doing developmental and flight test work for the Vulcan's manufacturer, Avro. He personally flew 105 of the 136 Vulcans that came off the production line and is eminently qualified to describe the flight testing of this aircraft.
Many of us probably have scant knowledge of the British V-bombers: Vickers Valiant, Handley-Page Victor, and Avro Vulcan. These aircraft were contemporaries of the USAF B-47 and B-52, and they carried their share of NATO's deterrence mission during the 1950s and into the 1960s. The Vulcan was originally conceived in 1947, and the first flight of a production model was in 1955. The final production model of this delta-winged nuclear bomber had a crew of five and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 204,000 pounds. Of the three V-bomber designs, the Vulcan was the most successful, lasting until the 1980s. Its swan song came with the UK's Falkland's War with Argentina in 1982.
The book is technically oriented, describing in considerable detail the problems associated with the development and testing of this large delta winged bomber. For example, Blackman tells the story of one of the worst of...