In their last offering Haynes gave us the Vickers Wellington, a classic piece of 1930s technology from the mind of Barnes Wallis the genius we know and love.
Jump twenty years ahead into a new era – the jet age, and we are back with truly the greatest of leaps forward, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Now, I know the great Mr Wallis was alive at the time, but I would love to know what he thought of this particular beast. I think he was designing all manner of missiles and pilotless stuff by then, ever restless and dynamic; he’d have moved on from bombers to something way ahead of the game.
I’ve never seen a B-52 in flight but I’ve seen a number of them lined up on the ground at Greenham Common during the 1980s. I can’t fix the date exactly, but I recall a throng of unhappy peace women at the gate and even unhappier Thames Valley coppers keeping tabs on them. Those were the days.
There isn’t much I can say about the B-52 really. We know what a stunning history it has. You can look it up on a host of websites or you might have read other books. You may have been luckier than me and seen one in flight. It is an awesome piece of kit. So let’s stick to the Haynes book. As usual the new-ish formula of making something that isn’t a book about a Ford Fiesta look like a book about a Ford Fiesta works exceedingly well. This volume has an awful lot more in it than the previous one and in actual fact there are a lot more drawings and diagrams so the feel is broadly similar to a car manual of old, but you won’t be changing the spark plugs after reading it. I really liked the chapter on the gunner’s perspective and all the material relating to servicing and ground handling. In the case of the gunner I think it is correct to say the B-52 is the last bomber to shoot down an enemy fighter, but please correct me if I’m wrong. Answers on a pretend postcard, please, to WHO Towers, Dorchester. Dave the postman knows where we are (this usually means the seat by the window in Costa). At this point I have to be honest and tell you I am not in Dorchester at all, but that’s the magic of the internet. I don’t like to misrepresent the website in any shape or form. The postman isn’t called Dave.
The point of all the earlier nonsense is to maximise the reality that books like this are effectively beyond review. They do the job so well. You pick them up and you smile. You read bits over a cup of tea and a custard cream or down at Costa or in the pub (make up your own ideal.) Put it down to do something less pleasant. Pick up where you left off at any time to continue the pleasure. It all works. It’s like a written word version of easy listening. There is no challenge and no grief. This is not to say no hard work was involved, quite the contrary, because the effort involved to meet this standard is considerable, but I hope you get my point. Class like this takes practice. Haynes know how to do this because they have worked at it. Hats off to them.
It is a sad fact that in my “to do” cabinet I have a dense and worthy history of the B-52 from another publisher and it is rendered obsolete by this book. I’d picked it up several times and had read a chapter and liked it, but then the Haynes book fell on my doormat and I knew it was hopeless. Sorry. So my verdict is a resounding thumbs up. I hope there is still time for me to see a Stratofortress in flight. If I don’t it won’t be the end of the world, but it would be cool.
BOEING B-52 STRATOFORTRESS
1952 onward (all marks) Owners’ Workshop Manual
By Steve Davies
Published by Haynes £21.99
ISBN: 978 0 85733 259 2