|Monday, 27 August 2012 00:00|
(by Alain Pelletier; ISBN 978-0-85733-257-8; Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset BA22 7JJ; 9¼in x 11½in hardback; 192 pages ,illustrated; £25)
First published in French in 2011 as Les Filles d’Icare, this history of female pilots from the early pre-First World War days to the present is most welcome. A listing of general works on aviatrixes reveals a considerable number, the majority being published in America, while there have been a surprising number of biographies and autobiographies.
In spite of this, the new book contains much of interest, with small biographies of many pilots. They include actresses who took up flying, aerobatic pilots, long-distance fliers, wing-walkers and aerobatic team pilots such as members of the USAF Thunderbirds, French Patrouille de France, UK Red Arrows etc, while surely the most glamorous world aerobatics champion on no fewer than seven occasions must be Russia’s Svetlana Kapanina, flying Sukhoi Su-25s, 26s and 31s.
On the military side, the RAAF has an all-female aircrew with one of its C-17A Globemaster IIIs, while the USAAF in December 1944 had 916 female pilots. A table shows a selection of pilots operating military jets, Tornados, Hornets, F-16s, Tomcats, Mirage 2000s, Phantoms, Gripens and, with the Royal Malaysian Air Force, MiG-29s. The first air-to-air combat victory by a female was in 2000 during the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, an Su-27 shot down a MiG-29UB with missiles.
The first woman to become the world’s fastest was Jacqueline Auriol at 818kph in a Vampire – she was later to set a number of records, the fastest being in a Mirage IIIR in 1963 at 2,038kph.
There is so much to read here, all of it interesting and with excellent reproduction of illustrations – even gliding performances are covered with a detailed table, while appendices give much information on races etc in tabular form. This is a splendid production, well presented and represents great value for money.