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Military Low-Level Flying From F-4 Phantom to F-35 Lightning II (Hardback)

A Pictorial Display of Low Flying in Cumbria and Beyond

Aviation > Aircraft Aviation > Royal Air Force Military P&S History > By Century > 20th Century

By Scott Rathbone
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 280
Illustrations: 200 colour integrated
ISBN: 9781399092784
Published: 15th March 2023


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The United Kingdom has some of the most dramatic landscapes that can be used by pilots to train in the vital skill of low flying. Aircrew preparing for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other potential war zones frequently hone their skills flying through the valleys of the UK, sometimes at near subsonic speed.

In Cumbria, as well as other major training areas within the United Kingdom Low Flying System, such as parts of Scotland and the world-famous Mach Loop in Wales, pilots can be seen on an almost daily basis sharpening their skills as they weave their aircraft, from basic trainers to the latest high-tech fighters, between the hillsides. As a result, these locations offer remarkable opportunities for photographers to capture close-up and dramatic shots.

These sights have captured the imagination of many photographers who have devoted many hours and displayed great patience in waiting to snap dynamic images on camera, the majority of these since the birth of digital photography. Whilst photographs of military low flying prior to the digital age are rare, in the pages of this book the author presents a selection of images to showcase just how things have developed since the 1980s – particularly focusing on the action to be seen over the hills and valleys of Cumbria and the Lake District which, since 1979, has been a major area in the training of military pilots.

In these pages are amazing shots of scores of different types of aircraft, from Jet Provosts, Buccaneers and Hawks through to F4 Phantoms, A-10 Thunderbolts, Tornadoes, Typhoons, and F-35 Lightnings, to name but a few. Types such as the Chinook and Sea King represent the many rotary aircraft. Unlike the photographs from air shows, none of these were staged; they are all action shots taken spontaneously as the aircraft whistled by Scott Rathbone and his trusty camera.

‘The reader might really think that they can hear the roar of a jet’s engine as it thunders through a valley at almost Mach 1 … A book to pick up again and again.’

Uwe W. Jack, Flieger Revue X Magazine, December 2023

"The author and his friends have been able to capture some truly remarkable images of modern military aircraft engaged in this activity - everything from a glider, to the massive and strange A400 Atlas, to Lockheed Martin F-35s."

Air Classics

Extremely low flight has always been one of the best means of increasing the survivability of an aircraft during military operations in areas threatened by the enemy. Since this entails great danger, crews have to practice this type of flying. A landscape used for this in Europe is in the extreme north-west of Great Britain.

Scott Rathbone has taken on the fascinating subject of low-level flight in a special way. He has selected spectacular photos by many photographers from several decades of flight training in Cumbria, on the border with Scotland. The reader sometimes really thinks he hears the roar of the engines of a jet thundering through a valley at almost Mach 1.

The illustrated book is preceded by a few pages of introduction in English, which do not necessarily have to be read in order to understand the images. The captions with aircraft type, recording date and location are also understandable. Airplanes and helicopters from all armed forces stationed in Western Europe have used Cumbria as a training ground and continue to do so today. Not only have the aircraft types used changed over the years, the variations in camouflage paintwork are also amazing and can certainly serve as inspiration for model builders.

A book to pick up again and again or to give as a gift.

Flieger Revue magazine

"The images are well-taken and well-reproduced."

Aeroplane - August 2023

Military low flying from F-4 to F-35" by Scott Rathbone is really outstanding.

Read the Review on Instagram

Instagram - @theaviationist

Aircraft enthusiasts, and modellers especially, will all love this one I think.

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Military Model Scene

Competition as featured in

RAF News

"AMAZING COLOUR shots of different types of aircraft – from Jet Provosts, Buccaneers and Hawks through to Tornados, Typhoons and F-35 Lightnings – are featured in a new book, a pictorial display of low flying in Cumbria and beyond."

RAF News - Friday, April 21 2023

About Scott Rathbone

SCOTT RATHBONE was born in Altrincham, South Manchester in 1971. A train driver with a 33-year railway career, he is one of two drivers involved in setting a speed record for a train journey between Glasgow and Manchester. A keen fan of sports, particularly football, cricket, tennis and motor-sport, he became fascinated by aircraft during 1982 with the media coverage of the Falklands conflict and family visits to Manchester Airport. Having had an interest in photography since the late 1980s, he expanded that through the 1990s with his low-level photography exploits starting in 2001, the same year that he had his first image published in a major magazine. Now living in Poynton, Cheshire, Scott has embarked on producing his first book, looking back on his own memories of time spent in the valleys of the UK, with help from friends and other like-minded enthusiasts.

Perfect Partner

The Panavia Tornado at Low-Level The Ultimate Pictorial Display of the Tornado in its Element (Hardback)

The small group of enthusiasts and photographers who had braved the winter weather and gathered on the slopes of the Lake District’s iconic valleys on Wednesday, 9 January 2019, were witnesses to the end of an era. The RAF Tornado GR.4 that raced past them, in some cases at a lower altitude than the onlookers, made the last ever low-level flight by this aircraft in the United Kingdom Low Flying System. Never again would the ‘Mighty Fin’, an aircraft that had been a familiar sight among the valleys of the UK for around forty years, provide such a spectacle. First flown in August 1974, the…

By Scott Rathbone

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