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'Sky Tales'

A delightful children's story by local author Chris Collard

Local writer Chris Collard has written a book along with local artist Mick Groves, who drew the amazing cartoons. How did writing the book come about? Chris explains.

During the summer of 2016 I re-visited the Yorkshire Air Museum, (Y.A.M.) situated in Elvington, a few miles south of York. Given my love of aircraft and all things aeronautical, I ended up volunteering to become a volunteer guide at the museum. I duly signed on, and received my jacket, sweatshirt and sports shirt all with the logo of the museum.

Three years of weekly journeying to Elvington, (just shy of 70 miles each way), became tiring and expensive in terms of fuel. Plus, I had to leave town before 8.00 to get onto the M1, to avoid jams and return on the M18 before the teatime rush, so was I was only usually at the museum for six hours or so.

However, I loved it there, drank in the ambience of a W.W.2. R.A.F. heavy bomber base and the impressive almost 2-mile-long runway-built post war, and of course the exhibits, especially the re-construction of a Halifax four engine bomber.

One day I wrote a story about our Hawker Hunter ‘talking’ to the Halifax, on one dark night in the hangar and soon after I showed it to Barbara, the Museum Director. She duly showed it to her daughter Elsie, who having read it wanted more! And so, the idea of a children’s book with stories of different aircraft talking to each other, illustrated by cartoons, photos and a few facts grew.

‘Plane Tales’ was duly published and has sold well in the museum shop.

I regretfully left Elvington in the summer of 2019, for the reasons cited above, but hope to return on an ad hoc / occasional basis once this pandemic is over. I then volunteered to be a guide at the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum at Doncaster, just off the M18 and based on the site of the old R.A.F. Doncaster airfield.

Of course, much of my service as a guide there has been limited by Covid 19, but the idea of a similar but new book quickly emerged and was supported enthusiastically by the trustees.

Roll on to December 2020 and the book, all 500 copies were published, but alas the museum was closed to visitors.

I had a potential local radio interview and newspaper and magazine features lined up, but without visitors being able to buy the book at the museum shop there was little point in seeking publicity at that point.

‘Sky Tales’ consists of seven stories, all of which feature aeroplanes and helicopters at the museum. The book is aimed at a 7-11 age group, though obviously can be read to a child. The seven stories feature the following conversations between aircraft; The Avro Vulcan (delta V- bomber) and a 1909 Bleriot, the first aircraft to fly the channel. A huge Sea King helicopter and a Harrier V.T.O.L. jet talk about their respective roles in the Falklands conflict of 1982. Then we have a Jet Provost trainer who has upset a twin-engine Jetstream which is now on the warpath! An Italian Macchi MB 336 trainer talks to a Lynx helicopter, (see the front cover cartoon from Mick above)!

Then we have the Hawker Hunter, and Britain’s first jet fighter to fire its guns in anger as they say, the Gloster Meteor. There is a lovely cartoon of the Hunter sweeping down a Welsh valley at low level and disrupting the work of a bunch of artists with their easels (shown below).

Two helicopters chat, one being the famous Bell-47 as older readers may remember, the type featured in the old T.V. series ‘The Whirlybirds’ and later M.A.S.H. The other helicopter is a camouflaged S-58 Wessex serving in Cyprus.

Finally, two Canberra noses have a heated conversation in their shed, furiously arguing about the merits of their varied service careers.

There are of course obligatory photos of the authors on the inside back cover, and a simple diagram illustrating the various parts of an aeroplane.

In case you’ve ever wondered and I didn’t know this till recently, the word ‘aircraft’ denotes both helicopters and aeroplanes, in fact ALL machines that fly. And technically ‘aeroplanes’ should be the term for all ’things with wings.’

If you’d like a copy of Chris' book text him or email as below.

Text: 07704 634334 E:

The books are £5 and can be collected locally or posted for you at £6.

Words: Chris Collard

Illustrations: Mick Groves


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