A CENTURY OF TRIUMPH: The History of Aviation

Christopher Chant, Author, John Batchelor, Illustrator, Burt Rutan, Foreword by . Free Press $50 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7432-3479-5

Chant, a veteran of over 70 reference histories, and Batchelor, who has designed postage stamps for more than 40 countries, have produced the best overview to date of aviation's first century. From 19th-century experiments to stealth technologies, each illustration-heavy chapter includes explanations of the various aerodynamic and practical problems that were encountered and overcome by a variety of innovations and developments, such as the slotted wing, used to prevent stalling of an aircraft. Milestone events—Bleriot crossing the English Channel in 1909, Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic and Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, for example—are nicely balanced with such less well-known but equally important ones, as the first use of aircraft in wartime by the Italians during their conflict with Turkey in Libya in 1911. The color illustrations of aircraft, including X-ray–like views of intricate engines and other workings, are meticulously accurate and aesthetically sharp (and certainly up to the high standards demanded by modelers and buffs); they often complement the narrative by illustrating lesser known aircraft not specifically mentioned in the text but adequately described in captions. Chant's familiarity with the subject is evident in the ease of narrative flow, and he passes over very little in recounting the history of manned flight during the 20th century. Even the most knowledgeable aviation enthusiast will find this book enjoyable to page through and most likely will learn something new. (Nov.)

Forecast:December 17, 2003, is the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight. Look for this book to have a strong run at least through that date, particularly with its selection by the National Aviation Hall of Fame as the official centennial book, and the April 2003 World's Fair of Aviation in Newport News, Va. The combination of a well-written and authoritative text and precise illustrations should give this volume the edge for years to come.

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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