Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An aircraft "type" history of my own - The Westland Wapiti

Books categorized as Aircraft Type Histories are nothing new.  These are books devoted to a single aircraft type, and in cases to even a single mark or variant, that chronicles the technological overview, history, fates and status of these aircraft in great detail.  Look for Spitfire on Amazon and you will find in excess of a thousand titles, spread over a multitude of categories - Aviation History, History, Military History, Transportation etc.  P-51 Mustang retrieves a few thousands! . Even the Hawker Hurricane brings up a respectable 450+ titles.

In this field of surplus titles, I could find only one aircraft type that was addressed by a single title. The Vultee Vengeance by Peter Smith is an example. No Author since or then has ever tried to write a history of this forgotten dive bomber.  There could be others, but searching on obscure types like the Bachem Natter, the Do 335 Pfiel still retrieved two to three titles per type.

Which brings me to the latest book - this is MY aircraft type history - the history of the Westland Wapiti in the Indian Air Force Servicer. The Wapiti was the first aircraft on which the IAF was raised on in April 1933. It went on to serve with two Squadrons, five Coastal Defence Flights, two Army Co-operation Flights/Units and a few training schools.  100s of Indian pilots trained and flew on this type.  The aircraft was so prevalent in the early 30s that half the RAF was on this type. Yet not one book exists on this aircraft other than a couple of small booklet features (Profile Publications for example). Most of the Wapiti litterature exists in terms of articles and sort of keeps repeating the same information again and again.

My book is surprisingly the first and the only full sized book published on this aircraft. Granted it covers only the IAF service, ignoring the RAF's service (in UK and in India and in Iraq) and the Canadian  / Australian service, but this is the only one written that include unpublished technical drawings, colour profiles and 100s of photographs.

Writing this book was an adventure - discovering never before published records and photographs, making sense of them and using them. The final product is a 224 page softbound book published by the Center for Armed Forces Historical Research of the United Services Institute of India.