— Spirit in the Skies by Jon Lake; World Air Power Journal, 232pp, colour, £19.95, hardback.
TAKE A BOW, Jon Lake. Why? It’s possible to spend any amount of money on aircraft books, many of which are of excellent quality. But this new volume on the Phantom must represent the best value £19.95 ever bought. Between the sturdy covers are a hefty 650 photographs, some beautiful illustrations and no fewer than a quarter of a million words, all of which is a massive amount of material for the price.
But we’re not just talking quantity here, because the quality is consistently superb too. In its three and a half decades of production the McDonnell F-4 Phantom has done it all and somehow, the editor and authors appear to have crammed in every detail of the story so far.
From the first flight of the prototype in 1958 to its heyday in the mia-70s through to the present day, every move the Phantom has made is passionately recorded. Accompanying this detailed historical analysis are a myriad of technical details and variant descriptions, sufficient for the even the hungriest seeker of information. The extensive array of weapons this great jet has carried is also documented, and there’s a riveting section on flying the warplane. There’s even room for a doubting voice, in the shape of one RAF pilot who found a handling quirk and wished he hadn’t.
The final chapter records the numerous countries which have had the intelligence to deploy the F-4’s broad abilities over the years. At the end one is left gasping for breath, yet full of admiration. The cover boasts that here’s ‘the definitive reference work on the world’s greatest jet fighter’ — for once the claim seems fully justified.