In the sixties the English Electric Lightning was taken into service by the RAF as interceptor as successor of the Hawker Hunter. This jet was his time far ahead. Who does not remember this flamboyant jet? The revolutionary model with two Avon jet engines placed on top of each other was the fastest operational jetfighter at that time easily defeating American and Russian designs. This machine could break the sound barrier in horizontal flight and had an extra ordinary climb speed. In the books that I have been reading on this plane there was also a lot of criticism about the design. The maintenance was very complex because of the difficult attainability of the onboard systems resulting in a very negative ratio between maintenance and operational flying hours.
The fuel consumption was also very high. It was well known that pilots flying the Lightning always had one eye pointed at the fuel indicator to avoid premature emergency situations. The average flight endurance was around 40 minutes and then it was bingo fuel and back to the base or refueling in the air by a tanker. This plane was also very critical when landings were made in marginal weather circumstances with wet runways and crosswinds and only very experienced pilots were flying this machine.
That is why I was very keen to write this review. It was a jet that was very popular by everyone that was interested in military aviation and still is. But unfortunately nothing of this information was mentioned in this book.
This photobook with 96 pages and a nicely laminated softcover is part of a series of photobooks of which I had been reading a couple already. It contains a lot of nice colored and black and white photos and colored layout drawings and is mainly divided in three chapters. The biggest part of the book contains descriptions and photos of all the different types in use, the color schemes and markings of the Lightning operated by the different squadrons and a chapter for the modelling enthusiasts.
As generally known of this series of photobooks the execution is very well taking care of and the plane descriptions are very detailed. As I said already I missed the technical details of the design and flight characteristics and the personal stories of the pilots flying this machine and their operational experiences with the Lightning during their service at the squadrons. Per example the Lightning is one of the few jetfighters if not the only one that carried extra fuel tanks on top of the very thin wings and I missed the explanation why this was constructed this way. But it is a photobook so the author is excused! The onboard weapons were very limited due to the design and the radar system was soon outdated because of the rapid developments in that time. The successor of the Lightning was the Phantom that could carry more ordnance and had a far better flight endurance.
But for the Lightning fan and the model builders who like to look at the nice pictures of their favorite plane and examples of beautiful home build scale models this is a nice and informative publication.