THE PLATYPUS PAPERS--Fifty years of powerless pilotage.

I''ve been a Platypus fan for years and in a long career have never found anyone who writes about flying so hilariously as Mike Bird--better known as Platypus.

I'VE BEEN A Platypus fan for years and in a long career have never found anyone who writes about flying so hilariously as Mike Bird--better known as Platypus.

Decades later than his devotees had the right to expect, Plat has at last produced an anthology of his selected works and has published it himself.

As self-publication is the recourse of so many literary no-hopers, philosophical axe-grinders and paralysing bores, let me stress that Bird's working life was spent in publishing. So he is eminently qualified to publish his own work in retirement and if he pockets a greater share of the sales proceeds by doing so, good luck to him.

For over the decades he will have made little from his rib-tickling literary output, since his main theatre has always been the pages of Sailplane & Gliding for which the best contributors write purely for love, as many soaring starvelings can testify.

Yes, this very handsome book is 98 per cent gliding comment, narrative, reminiscence, prophesy, fantasy and good-natured ridicule, as the title clearly indicates. But that doesn't mean that Pilot readers who like a donkey in front and a throttle to hand can't read it with enjoyment too--providing they have the capacity to appreciate sparkling, irreverent and sometimes iridescent wit.

Mike Bird's fifty-year enthusiasm has taken him frequently to America's desert states, Oz, NZ and elsewhere. But at home he's always been based at the London GC at the foot of the modest Dunstable Downs. This has sometimes seemed odd to those of us blessed with more impressive hills.

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He has usually owned, or shared, the biggest contemporary sailplanes available, ranging from a Skylark 3 in 1961 to his current ASW-22 single-seater and a Schleicher ASH-25 two-pew. He has always gone for the biggest wings and highest aspect ratios on the market at the time. His mantra, chanted endlessly down the years, is abbreviated to TINSFOS: there is no substitute for span.

The most unfailing source of gliding triumphs and disasters, legends, wit and abiding memories is one not available to power pilots since it stems from the soaring pilot's occasional need to land just about anywhere but where they had intended. Their aircraft then has to be de-rigged and road-towed back to base.

The possibilities for dramatic events--mad bulls, mad farmers, mad retrievers and mad pilots--which this scenario presents are endless. If Platypus hasn't experienced more than half of them personally he's heard of the other half from other enthusiasts whose stories he so entertainingly recounts.

In the whole canon of aviation humour, this book is a classic.