Friday, 5 February 2016

I've been commiting aviation (almost)

As part of the end chapter of my book about the Lynx I want to write a personal account of what the latest Mark 8 is like compared to the Mark 2s and 3s I flew.  Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a ride in the Mark 8 simulator at Yeovilton.  I'm still working on a trip in a real one but the sim was very useful at letting me see all the new electronic gizmos in action.  In the earlier machine, the radar was pure analog and to plot targets the Observer literally had to use a chinagraph pencil on a plastic overlay over the screen and join of the dots over a period of time.  Also the Sea Skua missile could be fired at 9 miles which was great for keeping out of the way of a target's self defence systems but meant you couldn't actually identify what you were firing at - not good.  The Mark 8 now has the radar digitised and fed into a large tactical display which can also show the picture from the Passive Electro Optic thingy on the nose which can easily identify ships at 9 miles.
It was great fun seeing all this working and made me realise how bloody easy it would be for the poor old pilot to get stuck into watching what was on the displays to the detriment of what was going on outside - which is a long winded way of saying I almost flew the thing into the water! I'm not sure that the workload is any higher than in my day but without doubt the results are going to be far more comprehensive and effective.
But of course the real problem with the simulator was that the visuals can only be seen through the main windows and the overhead panels are blank.  This may not seem like much of an issue but when returning to your ship and beating her up, you really need to be able to see the ship when you are almost completely inverted in a wingover, in order to line up properly!!  It was nice to find out I hadn't forgotten how to fly the thing completely..........

There were lots of ways to re-join the ship but it was always worth waking up the bridge staff.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Lynx book almost done

Well the first draft that is. Which is why I've not been blogging much as it seems to have taken over my life for the last few weeks.   I'm still looking for an account of counter drug operations in the Caribbean and I've one last Falklands Lynx flight to contribute (you know who you are). Then there will be the final chapter. What I want to do is a personal comparison of what the aircraft was like to fly in the early days and what it is like now.  This of course is all part of my cunning plan to get a trip in a Mark 8 - something that I am working on with the squadron (no really - its not just an excuse to go blasting around the sky in a Lynx once more!)  I've also got a trip in the Lynx simulator booked and want to use that to see how on earth the current aircrew cope with all the buttons they have to press these days - and there are a lot.
After that I'm about 20,000 words into the next Jon Hunt novel but it really seems that writing non fiction and fiction concurrently is almost impossible.  So once I've got the draft off to the publishers its back to the non real world of novels - the Balkans conflict this time.

A Lynx Mark 8 cockpit.  The driver's side is relatively unchanged but the big centre screen and the two panels in the middle weren't there in the Mark 2 and 3.  Nor were the very clever radios just below them.  The only things I recognise are the radar - on the left and the Orange Crop radar warner above the large TV screen.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Cocaine - now available as an audio book

It was actually released just before Christmas but I forgot I needed to announce it as I'm up to my ears in the Lynx book, the new Jon Hunt novel as well as narrating 'Arapaho'. And then there was Christmas and New Year to get in the way!! Who said retirement was boring.  I must be doing something right as I've already sold ten copies.  If anyone reading this thinks they are expensive on Audible they are also available on ITunes and significantly cheaper.  With audio books, unlike Kindles and paperbacks, I don't set the price, the retailer does so I have no control but it does seem weird to me as Audible is an Amazon company and they normally a very rigorous at price matching.  Right back to work.........

Not totally relevant to the book but a really cool photo sent to me by one of my contributors to the book on the Lynx.  Its two Mark 8 Lynx in the hangar of one of our new Type 45 destroyers HMS Dragon -  sort of like the two aircraft in the hangar of HMS Chester in the book.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

I've been a busy little Hector

With all this work on the book about the Lynx, I've also managed to narrate the next book in the Jon Hunt series - 'Cocaine'.  Doing a Chapter a day soon eats up the time and I hate to say it but its a while since I visited the book and I actually quite enjoyed reading it - even if I knew what was coming next!!  Silverton Audio, my brilliant producers have just given me a sample of the first 25 minutes and it sounds outstanding.  Quite how they take my crackly unprofessional soundtrack and turn it round so well is amazing.  So it should be out in the New Year.  Only seven more to go - or eight if I finish the new Jon Hunt novel in the meantime.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

And now on to the Gulf

I learnt a great deal about  Gulf politics when researching for my novel 'Arapaho'  and now I find that I'm going to have to write about it for real.  Its the longest running military operation that the Lynx has been involved in.  Starting in 1980, the Armilla patrol was designed to protect shipping in the region when the Iran Iraq war started and there has been a naval presence there ever since - with two Gulf wars just to break the monotony.  Now named Operation 'Kipion' for some arcane reason it has meant that a Lynx carrying ship has had continuous presence there for over 35 years.  Because of this I am going to dedicate a complete section of the new book to these operations.  Because of the unique nature of both the climate and the threat from both sides in the war, a number of unique modifications have been made to the aircraft over the years, all of which will be covered.  One in particular, I always wanted to play with was the Helicopter Machine Gun Pod which was a forward firing half inch cannon fitted to a weapon station.  The little red button on the cyclic stick gave up its role as the release for the load lifting hook and became a real 'dacadcadacadacadacadaca' button.    Some readers may recognise that I lifted the idea for my book 'Sea Skimmer' but I never got to play with it for real.

Its not well known but at the start of Gulf War One, the Iraqi navy was quite active with small warships and minelayers.  The US navy had a real problem as they did not have any weapons that could deal with this threat without massive overkill.  Step in the Lynx with its Sea Skua missiles.  Two aircraft effectively sank the whole Iraqi navy although little was ever made of it in the press.  Sometimes I despair of the RN PR people.  Had it been the RAF they would all have been given VCs and there would be endless TV documentaries about it.  However, I  have the first hand accounts of the guys who flew the missions so can hopefully redress the balance a little.  I am also hoping to interview the crew of HMS Duncan's Lynx who are just back from the Gulf to get a current and first hand account of what is going on out there now.  Should be interesting.

A Mark 8 Lynx with a Sea Skua keeping the 'peace' in the Gulf.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

So, that's the Falklands War done

For the Lynx book that is!  Apart from some tidying up I have submissions from 15 out of the 18 Lynx flights involved - and I'm leaning on the remaining guys to help as well.  But substantially I've got what I wanted.  As I posted before, one thing is quite clear - we should have all got together soon after it was over before everyone shot off to pasture new.  Comparing notes 33 years later is just too late!  For example one flight used parts of an office swivel chair to make a mounting for a machine gun in the cabin door.  In fact three other flights did the same and none of them new about each other.  Mind you those mountings weren't used afterwards (I wonder why!!).  So now its a quick dit about the development of the Mark Three and then it will be off to the Gulf, figuratively speaking, as its the one theatre of operations that the aircraft has been permanently flying in since 1980 and I've got some really good stories about that to come.

The last 3 Lynx to return from the War.  Andromeda (me flying) first, then Avenger and then Penelope's aircraft. One of the most emotional days of my life.
Not a Lynx! But taken from HMS Exeter's Lynx.  This is the Harrier that ran off the end of the temporary landing strip at San Carlos.  The photo has been used many times in the past but without the caption cut into the grass!!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sea Skimmer on Audio

Sorry about posting  my reviews here but this one really impressed me.  I narrated 'Sea Skimmer' a couple of months ago and it went for sale on Amazon Audio and I Tunes.  I'm no expert on this system as I never really use audio books, so maybe I've been a bit tardy at looking at the web site to see what people have said.  I had a look this morning and this has to be just about the best review I've ever had for any of my books.  What's even better for me is that I narrated it so I must be getting that reasonably right as well:

If you could sum up Sea Skimmer in three words, what would they be?
Intense, moving & humorous
What did you like best about this story?
The pace in which the story moves is great. It has proper military humour & keeps you listening and wanting to know what's going to happen next.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
There are too many to mention! But I suppose the dogfight against the Argi plane.
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
The British Top Gun!
Any additional comments?
I have read the complete series on my kindle and would highly recommend. I can't wait to hear the rest of the books. You don't need to understand military history or even the basics of the military as this books can put any reader at ease with the subject and draw you into an intense story based on both fact and fiction.
The 'Caspian Monster' is also starting to sell and I am currently three quarters of the way through 'Cocaine'.  Only seven more books after that!