Book review: The Vickers Viscount by Nick Stroud

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Air Traffic Controller, comedian and son of Viscount pilot, Dorian Crook, reviews a new book on the Vickers Viscount by Nick Stroud. 

SPOILER ALERT! Production of the Viscount finished in 1962!

Not too much of a Spoiler Alert, as it happens, because this is no geek’s telephone-directory-style production list (not that there’s anything wrong with that….).

No. Mr. Stroud’s biography of the Viscount is beautifully illustrated thoughtfully presented and, whilst it includes the usual facts and figures, is happy to stray into the social, political, and other worlds beyond rivets and registration letters. This will come as no surprise to readers of Mr.Stroud’s independent magazine The Aviation Historian; it’s where he comes into his own, and I would say we need more of this…

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Back to the basics- we have 120 pages with well-reproduced photos on each- good value at £16.99. Starting with Mr. Stroud’s personal connection, we have chapters on Genesis, Development and Production, a chapter on Military variants and interesting diversions into second-hand uses and corporate or private operators. Again, deviating from the tired listings of other publications, Mr. Stroud has not felt the need to tabulate accidents to Viscounts. Instead, he has chosen to look in detail at one accident, near Sydney, Australia, in 1961. This gives us much more feel of the operation in general, than a mass of statistics. No, it’s not the complete story of every accident, but it’s much more readable for that.

Talking of Viscount incidents, my late father, who was a Captain on the 700 series, told the tale of a colleague of his, whose passengers had a lucky escape when an inboard propellor detached and embedded itself in the toilet section of the fuselage. After the hearty meal and wine of an early-Sixties holiday charter, it seems the only reason the toilet was unoccupied was that the crew had forgotten to cancel the Seat Belts sign after a period of turbulence….

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When I read novels, I’m disappointed if I don’t find at least one word which I have to look up. I don’t normally set such high standards for aircraft production histories, but again Mr. Stroud has delivered: Legerdemain was a new one on me. This is a book you could show your non-Aviation friends- the photos are not just side-on spottershots- they contain the human element wherever possible, engineers tinkering with flaps, with comments on the weather (and surroundings). Airline brochures, luggage labels and similar all help to evoke the era of which this aircraft was a part. 

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These good intentions are well shown in the photo of an elegant Aer Lingus stewardess sashaying down the steps of an Aer Lingus V.707. It’s more reminiscent of a Vogue fashion spread than an aircraft history. As well as observing her immaculate attire, we are invited to divert our attention to the air-conditioning air scoop under the fuselage! So- no accusations of objectification of Air Stewardesses and something for all readers.

I look forward to seeing more from the Stroud writing desk, and I do hope he’s sent a copy to the ‘Viscount Bar’, a hostelry complete with a Viscount profile image, on the road to Dublin Airport.

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