RAGWINGS AND HEAVY IRON: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Flying History Greatest Warbirds by Martin Caidin

RAGWINGS AND HEAVY IRON: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Flying History Greatest Warbirds

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When his fingers aren't flying, Caidin takes to the air in Iron Annie, the only original Junkers Ju/52 tri-motored German bomber-transport still aloft--and he's here, with fellow members of the Valiant Air Command, to tell how you too can have fun buying, reconditioning, and flying WW II planes. After the manic mock-battle opener (Messerschmitts and Zeros, and a jumble of Allied aircraft), from the Valiant Air Command's 1983 airshow, this is for readers with pilot training and spotter-knowledge of military aircraft. It's also an undisguised plug for the Valiant Air Command: ""secessionist"" Florida unit of the Texas-born Confederate Air Command; ""unique"" among warbird outfits, we're told, in its public outreach. Backing up, Caidin recounts the hairy 1961 transatlantic flight of three Flying Fortresses in formation (to publicize the movie they'd be making). There's the story of the two Messerschmitts he bought in England in 1963: the uproar at a French airfield at the sight of swastikas; the crash landing--and icy welcome--in Labrador. (Beware, beware, beware of unenthusiastic officialdom.) There are tales of other Messerschmitts retrieved intact or redesigned to perfection. (""My airplane""--says the perfectionist--""quickly came to be known as Goering's revenge."") There's a buddy's long letter about flying a ""battered old ragwing""--a small, fabric-covered training plane (as against the ""heavy iron"" combat craft)--via ""pipelines, railroads, and highways, and sometimes even my compass."" There are two contrasting accounts--screw-ups, safety-firsts--of experience with the Big Six, the North American T-6 trainer. And there's Caldin's story of the resurrection of Iron Annie--from Ecuadorian jungle junkheap (""the engines hadn't turned for eight years"") to star of ""The World's Greatest Wingwalk."" En route, Kurt Junkers' co-designer pronounces the plane ""better now in so many ways than when it was built""; while its top German pilot, pressed for a full Luftwaffe checkout, says, ""You've already done everything far beyond what we expected of our pilots."" Caidin's yen to outperform the Nazis might give a reflective reader pause--but mainly this is for nostalgic WW II airmen and susceptible newcomers: you don't have to be a combat vet, Caidin stresses, to fly a warbird or belong to the VAC.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1984
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin