Saturday, 2 January 2016


Being a fighter pilot -- for that matter, simply taking off in a single-engine jet fighter of the Century series, such as an F-102, or any of the military's other marvelous bricks with fins on them -- presented a man, on a perfectly sunny day, with more ways to get himself killed than his wife and children could imagine in their wildest fears. 
Wrote Tom Wolf in The Right Stuff. But you didn't have to be an all-American hero to dice with death up in the burning blue. Look what Wikipedia has to say about the RAF's first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor. When reading this paragraph, bear in mind that the total number of British service personnel who've died in the recent Afghan war is 456.
A total of 890 Meteors were lost in RAF service (145 of these crashes occurred in 1953 alone), resulting in the deaths of 450 pilots. Contributory factors in the number of crashes were the high fuel consumption and consequent short flight endurance (less than one hour), causing pilots to run out of fuel, and difficult handling with one engine out due to the widely set engines.
Almost as many deaths from just flying one type of plane as from a decade and a half of brutal fighting in a country already notorious for being the graveyard of invading armies. No wonder they called it the Meatbox.