Tuesday, 3 November 2009

History of Military Aviation

I read up to the end of the Second World War bit in this book, and to be quite honest I was disappointed. I think the trouble is, it was trying to cover to big a period. There were some skimpy mentions of the early early part, like the early use of balloons as observation platforms (eg Boer War), and about the really early stuff in Britain. I think there was too much focus on the English side too, and yet they missed out some of the mega journeys (like the one over the Atlantic! Which was even done by naval aviators!), which obviously had an impact on the rest of it. I suppose the part on the First World War was okay as a summary, but that's really all it was. I got a bit bored to be honest and gave it back to the library. I wouldn't really recommend it except as a starting point--if you know much about it already, it doesn't say much new. In fact, there were only the odd one or two details which I didn't know about. The pictures were quite impressive and large scale, but the real problem is that it was trying to cover over a hundred years of aviation history in one volume. I have a bigger one now that covers the history of aviation up to about 1936 when it was published, which is made up of a series of articles. The first one was about the flight across the Channel in 1909, and there was a very relevant point made--the idea that you could be completely out of sight of land and could only see the sea below doesn't seem all that major to us now, but to Bleriot it would have been pretty stunning. If his engine went wrong then (which was quite likely--there was another man who was on the verge of doing it before him but had to ditch, then tried again on the same day and again had to ditch, though both times he was rescued), he would've been stuck. It had never been done before, and the engines were unreliable enough over land, where at least you had a half decent chance of finding an empty field and landing there. Anyway, the History of Military Aviation basically has good pictures and not amazing commentary alongside it. If you ever happen to see Aerial Wonders of Our Time though (and you have an interest in the subject...), I would highly recommend you grab it.

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