THE MAN WHO FLEW CHURCHILL by Bruce & William Vanderkloot West


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Captain William Vanderkloot, an American pioneer airline pilot, was assigned to fly British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, South African Premier Jan Smuts, and other potentates to conferences and on missions during WW II. Churchill, an amateur pilot, was frequently allowed to co-pilot the plane as it took circuitous sky routes to Teheran and Cairo in order to avoid prowling German fighters. But the vignettes about Vanderkloot's famous passengers compose the least interesting parts of the book. Much more absorbing is the tale of the Royal Air Force Ferry Command, of which Vanderkloot was a member. Delivering new bombers across the Atlantic or Pacific was no milk run; in fact it was a hair-raising job. At the time there was little reliable weather reporting, no string of rescue ships, and often the flights were in cramped, unheated and unarmed planes. The trip home, when crews traveled as passengers on special flights, was even more hazardous because of heavy headwinds and tight fuel margins. West and Vanderkloot spin plenty of good flying yarns of pilots babying disintegrating aircraft, of the commander of a small emergency base who--shades of Catch-22's Milo Minderbinder--sold off all his equipment, of landings with full ammunition loads on North African desert airstrips which erupt suddenly into battle. A cockpit view of the war and Churchill at the controls.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1975
Publisher: McGraw-Hill