Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
To put this book’s content in context I deliberately read it aboard a modern airliner – an Airbus A300, with seat pitch comfortable only for midgets, and with overpriced mediocre pre-packaged food. The “Golden Age” of air travel seemed far, far away.
This new book broadly covers the period from the inception of commercial air travel after WW1 to the demise of Concorde. The author is Curator of Documents at the RAF Museum at Hendon. This perhaps explains the book’s main delight – a plethora of well-reproduced illustrations, many of which I had not seen before. Including such obvious material as advertising, they convey strongly the glamour, both putative and real, of air travel in these early times. But insights are very partial: she tells us for example that Imperial Airways’ flights to Paris were expensive and exclusive, without actually saying how much tickets cost.
The book’s main weakness is its brevity – at only 53 pages (and in A5 layout) there is little time to do justice to the subject. Certainly there are no personal narratives or quotes to lend texture to this book. Hadway’s grasp of aviation at times looks tenuous. Claims for example that BOAC operated the Air Transport Auxiliary are wide of the mark. Similarly that by 1945 Heathrow had concrete runways (its first was built by the end of that year)
The description of how a jet engine works is clumsy, and overall the slightly archaic prose style is reminiscent of an economic historian rather than an author looking for the mass market.
Production quality is high, but so it should be for such a slim volume priced at £6.99. So there are no great insights, but some wonderfully evocative illustrations are what will tickle any potential buyer.
Nina Hadway, Shire Library, 2013
ISBN 978 074781 2234
Then (Handley Page HP42)
Now (Monarch A300)