I am privileged to have known Ted Talbot as a work colleague (although not in his Concorde days), so I can’t offer you an impartial review of his book – but I will offer an honest one.
Ted is a brilliant engineer and a true gentleman. He has a dry, incisive wit that he brings to bear at exactly the right moment – as you will see from his many anecdotes in this fascinating book which covers personal and family reminiscences as well as accounts of technical aspects of Concorde that he manages to portray in a way that’s not only accessible to his technical peers but also to the rest of us who are left marvelling at the ingenuity of Ted’s generation of world-class engineers.
Concorde, although not a ‘business’ success, was an engineering achievement of global proportions – streets ahead of its rivals in the USA and Soviet Union despite their cold-war funding and resources. What was achieved by Ted Talbot, his colleagues and their equivalents in other engineering offices in Britain and France was unique and miraculous: Concorde’s passengers travelled in luxury – faster than a bullet from a rifle (much, much faster than any of today’s airliners). How was that achieved? It was by the wit and ingenuity of guys like Ted, engineers to the core, working with their tools of the trade – such as slide rules and mechanical calculators. No supercomputers in those days – no PCs even.
This account by Ted Talbot brings you close to how it felt to be a Concorde development engineer; the technical and organisational challenges, the successes, the fun enjoyed along the way. It’s a lively account; very few books make me laugh out loud, but this one did several times.
Whatever you may think about the ‘politics’ of Concorde, set-aside your doubts and just relish this account of how engineers (at the same time ordinary guys – but also quite exceptionally unordinary) created a technical marvel.