Airplanes have been crashing since Orville and Wilbur first went aloft. Though they are comparatively rare, airplane crashes are always headline news. Xavier Waterkeyn examines the history of such crashes in AIR DISASTERS OF THE WORLD. A 2013 New Holland Publishers release, Waterkeyn's book is a comprehensive summary of crashes FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF FLIGHT TO THE JET AGE.
Rather than a straight chronological narrative. Waterkeyn takes a thematic approach to this admittedly grisly subject. After an opening chapter on 'Air Disasters Before the Jet Age,' he goes into 'Terrorism and Other Crimes,' 'Disasters of the Jet Age,' 'Bizarre and Unusual Accidents of the Jet Age,' 'Famous Casualties of Aeroplane Crashes,' 'Narrow Escapes, Near Misses and Close Calls,' 'Fire: The Passenger's Worst Nightmare' before concluding with a final section on 'Air Crash Investigations.'
In all, Waterkeyn's well-illustrated book examines over 200 air disasters including the crashes of the R38, R101 and Hindenburg airships, various De Havilland Comet crashes, collisions such as the 1960 UA Flight 826/TWA Flight 266 mid-air over NYC, the bombing of United Airlines Flight 629, pilot error and instrument failure crashes involving a variety of airlines, shootdowns like KAL Flight 007 and Iran Air Flight, misadventures-in-the-cockpit like the crash of Pacific Southwest Arlines Flight 1771, weather-related and navigation-error crashes around the world, sabotage including the bombing of Pan American Flight 103, take-off accidents such as the 1977 Tenerife crash, skyjackings like Ethiopian Airline Flight 961, the 911 attacks and so on. Most of the events have write-ups ranging from a 1/2-page to one page. A very few events rate more pages. The Tenerife section, for example, runs to six pages. Some of the crashes have accompanying photographs.
Other chapters include 'Famous Casualties' which describe the deaths of Leslie Howard, Carole Lombard, Amelia Earhart, Glen Miller, Patsy Cline, JFK Junior and over 30 others. The 'Narrow Misses' chapter includes a variety of "There-But-for-the-Grace-of-God-Go-I" near-misses or incidents where some passengers/crew survived. The 'Fire' Chapter relates various crashes where landings/crash-landings were made only to have fire sweep through the aircraft/wreckage and cause fatalities. The final chapter - on 'Air Crash Investigations' - summarizes the post-crash efforts undertaken by agencies such as the Australian Transport and Safety Board - the author's an Aussie! - to determine why an aircraft never completed its final flight.
AIR DISASTERS OF THE WORLD has a lot going for it: excellent research; concise, comprehensive and insightful text; and lots of b&w and color photographs. I wanted to give Waterneyn five stars but no index! There's a lot of info in the book and it really needs an index. (Sorry, mate). Highly recommended.