No Highway by Nevil Shute

No Highway cover

No Highway by Nevil Shute was first published in 1948. Shute was of course an aeronautical engineer and pilot and he worked in that industry at the same time as he was writing his earlier books. In No Highway Shute has plundered his experiences of working within the aviation industry.

The tale is told by Dr Scott, the head of the Structural Department at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Theo Honey is one of the employees he is in charge of, Honey is a strange character as far as everyone else is concerned, he has weird ideas about religion and being able to gain information through using a planchette. Honey’s wife was killed when their home was bombed during the war and he has been left to bring up their young daughter on his own.

Honey is completely obsessed by his research on stress and metal fatigue in aircraft and he thinks he has discovered that the newest trans-Atlantic Reindeer aircraft is likely to suffer catastrophic damage involving the tail falling off after they have flown around 1400 hours.

Nobody wants to believe his research outcomes and his weird interests are used against him, to paint him as someone not to be taken seriously. One Reindeer aircraft has already crashed into a mountain but as usual the crash has been blamed on pilot error. Honey and Scott believe that if they don’t stop the other Reindeers from flying then more people will die in crashes. Honey is sent off to Canada to look for evidence of metal fatigue on the crashed aircraft, and ends up taking desperate action to stop the plane he is on from flying on when it stops to refuel.

This is a good read, at times quite gripping and also involves quite a lot of romance as Honey is one of those men who are obviously in need of the love and care of a good woman to nurture and protect him. He brings out their mothering instincts, much to the amazement of the more worldly men around him. .