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X-Planes of Europe II

X-Planes of Europe II Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review September 2016 Title X-Planes of Europe II
Author Tony Buttler Publisher Hikoki Publications
Published 2016 ISBN 9781902109480
Format 288 pages, hardcover MSRP (USD) $56.95


Prototype and project expert Tony Buttler continues his superb survey of weird, wonderful wings in X-Planes of Europe II.

Subtitled “More Secret Research Aircraft from the Golden Age 1945-1971”, Buttler’s study recaps at least three dozen spellbinding subjects in 288 pithy pages.

Surprises abound. Buttler claims that “some accounts” list as many as 25-30 Arsenal VB 10s completed. The brief section on Short Sperrin delta- and swept-wing design studies proved especially interesting. And the DH 110 – progenitor of de Havilland’s Sea Vixen – was originally “schemed as a land-based RAF prototype”.

Buttler’s coverage of Switzerland’s FFA P-16 proved particularly riveting. The conventional-looking design easily went supersonic in shallow dives. It “would not spin at all, and when put into a spin deliberately, even if inverted, it would recover just a quarter of a turn after the pilot had released the controls”. And its robust undercarriage “allowed the aircraft to take off from difficult surfaces, including a soaked grass field that was so soft a jeep sank into the turf”.

Unfortunately, the remarkable program fell victim, as many innovative efforts do, to suddenly shifting political, military and economic realities. And while the P-16 forged repute as Switzerland’s last indigenously designed warplane, portions paradoxically live on. The legendary Learjet executive aircraft acquired the P-16’s wing “and fixed tip-tanks joined to a new passenger fuselage”.

And the rest, as folks say, is history!

Fascinating, too, was Buttler’s chapter on Italian projects –the Aerfer Sagittario II, Ariete and Leone designs. Everyone knows Italy’s most successful warplane of the period – FIAT’s G.91. And Buttler dutifully recaps one its competitors – Breguet’s Taon – in another illuminating assessment.

Nor is every subject, strictly speaking, “European”. Buttler also outlines the intriguing account of the ultralight Spanish-Egyptian HA-300 supersonic interceptor. Super stuff!

Gripes? All minor. The meager, but fascinating entr’acte on French COIN designs left me hungry for more. A “projects” chapter would have been nice. The Ikarus S-49 derived from Yugoslavia’s pre-war IK-3 fighter. And the Breguet 960 Vultur profile lacks the national insigne’s outer yellow ring.

Nattering nitpicks all.

Fans of Buttler’s first volume will love its sequel.  Every chapter proved absorbing.  Hundreds of B&W and color photos pack this page-turner. I just wish manufacturers offered scale models of most!

Robustly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Specialty Press for this review sample!