Review by Andrew Kitney.
When my review copy of Britain’s Glorious Aircraft Industry arrived, it immediately struck me just what a thorough and comprehensive product it appeared to be, with nearly 500 pages and a weight and presence to match.
UK-born and having spent upwards of 36 years working in the airline industry as a lifetime aviation enthusiast, facilitated by living near civilian and military airports and airfields, while visiting many more for airshows and viewing, my interests and passion can be best described as eclectic! As such, I enjoy seeing and delving into the history of extremely rare types seen at my local and world renowned airfield, Shuttleworth Old Warden, such as the English Electric Wren, through to airliners I’ve seen and travelled on through the decades, warbirds seen at my other world beating airfield, Duxford, and also military and general avaition types over the years.
I set this scene because with this background, on all accounts, the book delivers unreservedly and is an absolute treasure trove in all matters on the British aircraft industry and I keep dipping into it to look up something or to just read a few pages on a particular type.
Great Britain’s aircraft industry has been world beating, achieving many firsts in the aeronautical world; while there is just too much to go into for this review, the book covers in succinct detail the complete story of all the companies and types designed, built and flown during the period from 1908 through to ‘today’ (2020 – via additions to the initial version), some you will have heard of and some you won’t. It also encompasses both fixed and rotary wing and the evolution of more than 130 different design and manufacturing companies to where we are today. The Great War, flying boats, Second World War, airliners, the jet engine, and the challenging defence scene are all covered, but not only is the success reported, there is also fascinating detail on the failures such as the Brabazon, Saunders Roe Princess and the TSR2. The demise of once great companies, and the amalgamation into what are now huge global conglomerates, are detailed as are projects that never flew.
Illustrated throughout with black and white photos of the types detailed, the real gem of this book is that it is profusely filled with supporting tables giving the most amazing amount of information on the manufacturers, their locations and the types they produced. The appendices, of which nearly 150 pages are devoted, build on this, providing tables for every single manufacturer with the types made over those 100+ years with supporting data on volume produced, aircraft performance, capacity and first flight. Additionally, timelines are provided on the companies as are key moments in British aviation, as diverse as the founding date and detail of Percival and the formation of BEA separate from BOAC.
In summary then, an absolutely superb book very much worth your time. It is a product of what must be thousands of hours of research. If you have any kind of interest in the British aircraft industry, this book is a must.
And yes, the English Electric Wren, of which three were made, and its first flight in 1921 and top speed of 50mph, is covered!
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