S u m m a r y
|Title and Author
||The Long Drag - a Short History of
British Target Towing by Don Evans
Published by Flight Recorder Publications
||Soft covers, A4 portrait format, 68
pages + covers, incl. 4 pages of colour artwork.
||£9.99 (GBP) + Post & Packing
||Well written and informative book,
about a hitherto neglected subject. Probably the only dedicated book
||Modellers will probably need to find
(if they can) a source of more-detailed photographs and drawings, to do
their subjects justice.
Reviewed by Steve Naylor
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Whilst target towing is often seen as an unglamorous and peripheral military
activity, one only needs to read this book to see what an important part it has
played, and still does play, in airforce combat training. Equally, if you
thought that target towing was as simple as stooging around in an obsolete
aircraft trailing an old windsock, whilst waiting for some 'flyboy' to come and
take a 'pot-shot' at you (or hopefully the target!), then think again (though in
truth, it appears that it sometimes it did mean just that!). Don Evans' book
provides an extensive insight into both the history and practicalities of target
towing, this being possibly the only book to cover this 'art' exclusively, and
in such detail.
Long Drag’ is presented in A4 portrait format, with satin-finish soft covers,
enclosing 68 semi-gloss pages. There are four pages of colour artwork profiles
by David Howley, covering some twenty-three aircraft used as British target
tugs. These range from a 1925 Westland Walrus, through Henleys, Battles,
Defiants and Beaufighters, right through to Meteors, Hawks and Canberras. Some
unusual types include; the Brewster Bermuda (never heard of it), Vultee Vengance
Mk.IV and the short-lived Miles M.33 Monitor (the only purpose-designed target
tug used in British Service). The remainder of the book, including photographs,
is printed in black & white and includes various equipment or installation
diagrams. Modellers, especially those interested in scratchbuilding or
conversions, will probably still need to hunt elsewhere for detailed close-ups
though. Reproduction however is excellent, with a good selection of photographs
of the many 'unsung warriors' (as Evans describes them). So on to the book
Beginning with a short introduction, there then follow eleven chapters, rounded
off by a listing of the known UK-based RAF Target Towing Units. Chapter headings
are; The History of Aerial Targets (Flags, Banners, Sleeves and Darts), Sleeve
Targets (Dragging a Drogue), Target Exchanging (Sleeve Swapping), Winged Targets
(Less Than Perfect), The Air Snatch Technique (Low, Not Slow), Target
Intelligence (Don't Hit the Target), Modern Targets (Size is Not Important),
Winches (Letting it All Hang Out), Accessories (Hooks and Cables), The Aircraft
(Unsung Warriors) and finally, Tales and Tails (Unsung Heroes).
All this is told from the point of view of someone who spent most of his service
life (in both the RAF and Fleet Air Arm) involved with target towing and then
afterwards, with the A&AEE at Boscombe Down, working on the technique's further
development (Don received the British Empire Medal for his work on the Trident
Target and on the Rapid Target Exchanger). Even now in retirement he is still
involved at Boscombe Down, where he looks after over 1,000 scale model aircraft!
Highlight for me in this book, is the chapter on 'The Air Snatch Technique'.
Imagine a Canberra B Mk.2 approaching at 150 knots and 10 feet altitude,
'hooking' a towing loop suspended above the ground on poles! Once the loop is
'hooked', the aircraft then goes into a high power, steep climb, whilst the
remaining tow line flys out of the dispenser until the waiting target is finally
snatched into the air! This technique was so spectacular, that it used to be
performed at various RAF stations for their 'Battle of Britain' displays - not
sure that show organisers would be so keen to put it on now!
Don Evans' book is a concise and well written account of a
subject which has, until now, largely been ignored. His practical, first-hand,
knowledge shines through and he also tells a good (and often humorous) story.
This is a definite candidate for any aviation enthusiast's reference shelf and I
can highly recommend it. All we need now, is a bit more support from kit or
aftermarket manufacturers to allow us all to do justice to some of those 'Unsung
Heroes'. How about the parts to convert the forthcoming 'Classic Airframes'
Meteor NF.11/13 into a TT.20 anyone?
Review copy (courtesy of yours truly's wallet) was purchased from Midland
Counties Publications (a part of the Ian Allan Group) at;
4 Watling Drive
Sketchley Lane Industrial Estate
Tel: 01455 233747 Fax: 01455 233737
The book (and others in their range) can also be purchased direct from Flight
Recorder Publications Limited, who are at;
Tel: 01964 624223 Fax: 01964 624666
Distribution & Marketing in the USA is by;
39966 Grand Avenue
Tel: (001) 651 277 1400 Fax: (001) 651 277 1203
Review Copyright © 2003 by
This Page Created on 24 October, 2004
Last updated 24 October, 2004
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