X-Planes of Europe  [9781902109213]

X-Planes of Europe
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Date Added: Friday 19. October, 2012
It is rare when a reference book such as this can also be such a guilty pleasure. It has all the facts and figures on the wonderfully exotic aircraft it features necessary for an expert to have at hand. But perhaps even more important, it is a treat just to dip into it randomly and savour a time of action and adventure in aviation that most probably will never be seen again.

The two authors are obviously experts in their field, who love their work. They use their enthusiasm to weld the disparate histories of thirty eight unique experimental aircraft into the compelling story of European research. The selection of photos, mostly black and white, is remarkable, as are the succinct, informative captions. The drawings, especially the cutaways, are excellent.

The great strength of this book is the comprehensive manner in which the authors tell the back stories of the aircraft—their designers, the engineering, the governmental intrusions, the bravery of the test pilots—along with precise details on structure, performance and even ultimate possibilities. Any authors who can explain, in an interesting manner, the structure and the successive melt-downs of the French and British aviation industries are clearly great writers as well as researchers.

The book is poignant in its descriptions of what was once a healthy competitive world of relatively small companies with big ideas, valiantly competing with the American and Soviet goliaths.

There will be surprises for many readers for sure, such as the Swiss Arbalate and its wicked looking successor the (unflown) Aiguillon jet fighter. And it is entertaining to pick out favourites from the wide selection of vertical lift, delta wing or rocket powered aircraft. One certain to impress is the variety of ways in which vertical lift was investigated, from the barrel-shaped SNECMA Coléoptère to the VFW VAK 191B (try saying that real fast). The book covers the sad missed opportunities such as the cancellation of the gorgeous Bristol 188. This is a wonderful book, pure and simple, well worth its cost for even a beginner’s aviation library.

Walter J. Boyne
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]
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