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Airplane Hardcover – 12 Dec 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Collins; First Edition edition (12 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061259195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061259197
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,467,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"An engaging text.The lively writing and the number of photographs set it above many of its competitors." -- Library Journal

"A smart .history of a thrilling machine all too often taken for granted." -- Publishers Weekly

A smart history of a thrilling machine all too often taken for granted. --Publishers Weekly

A story with a new character and a new engineering problem on every other page, each served with a sense of delight in ideas that sent humanity aloft. --Seattle Times

An engaging text The lively writing and the number of photographs set it above many of its competitors. --Library Journal

This is a written like an episode of the old TV show Connections, and is just as entertaining. --Sacramento Book Review

"A smart ...history of a thrilling machine all too often taken for granted."--Publishers Weekly

"A story with a new character and a new engineering problem on every other page, each served with a sense of delight in ideas that sent humanity aloft."--Seattle Times

"This is a written like an episode of the old TV show Connections, and is just as entertaining."--Sacramento Book Review

"An engaging text...The lively writing and the number of photographs set it above many of its competitors."--Library Journal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jay Spenser has spent a lifetime studying aviation as a museum curator at the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Flight, and as an aerospace industry writer. He is the co-author of 747 and lives in Seattle, Washington. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Hardcover
I picked up Jay Spenser's "The Airplane: How Ideas Gave Us Wings" at the airport (how appropriate), and I haven't been able to put it down. Fans of James Burke's "Connections" will find much to like about Spenser's approach. Rather than setting out a chronological history of flight, Spenser explores the history of the airplane's component parts: fuselage, wings, empennage (tail assembly), controls, flight deck, landing gear, propulsion system, cabin comforts and system integration. The book is a bit redundant in spots, but that's to be expected given the overlapping nature of some of the discoveries involved--it's a small price to pay for a refreshing approach to the oft-examined history of flight.

Spenser explains all sorts of interesting things, like why biplanes looked the way they did (it has to do with the Australian invention of the box kite), why the Fokker DVII fighter was the only airplane to be specifically mentioned in the Treaty of Versailles, why jets have swept wings, why flaps are used to increase the size of an aircraft's wing on landing, and how the pioneers of aviation learned by trial and error (sometimes fatal error) to design and build aircraft that can each carry hundreds of people across continents.

Spenser's narrative is entertainingly attentive to the little quirks of history--for example, the Wright Brothers were accomplished bicyclists, and their understanding of the need to lean into turns and maintain balance contributed directly to their brilliant design of contol across all three axes of flight. European inventors, in contrast, thought of airplanes as airborne sailing ships or automobiles, which caused them to design flying bricks that could barely turn and couldn't begin to manage pitch, yaw and roll.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I really enjoyed this book. For anyone interested in the history of aviation it's well worth buying. Jay Spenser writes in a way that keeps you wanting more and his descriptions of the trials and tribulations of the early aviation pioneers are better than anything I've read before on the subject.

Highly recommended reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9acbf768) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a8131d4) out of 5 stars One Piece at A Time 23 Nov. 2008
By William Holmes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I picked up Jay Spenser's "The Airplane: How Ideas Gave Us Wings" at the airport (how appropriate), and I haven't been able to put it down. Fans of James Burke's "Connections" will find much to like about Spenser's approach. Rather than setting out a chronological history of flight, Spenser explores the history of the airplane's component parts: fuselage, wings, empennage (tail assembly), controls, flight deck, landing gear, propulsion system, cabin comforts and system integration. The book is a bit redundant in spots, but that's to be expected given the overlapping nature of some of the discoveries involved--it's a small price to pay for a refreshing approach to the oft-examined history of flight.

Spenser explains all sorts of interesting things, like why biplanes looked the way they did (it has to do with the Australian invention of the box kite), why the Fokker DVII fighter was the only airplane to be specifically mentioned in the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, why jets have swept wings, why flaps are used to increase the size of an aircraft's wing on landing, and how the pioneers of aviation learned by trial and error (sometimes fatal error) to design and build aircraft that can each carry hundreds of people across continents.

Spenser's narrative is entertainingly attentive to the little quirks of history--for example, the Wright Brothers were accomplished bicyclists, and their understanding of the need to lean into turns and maintain balance contributed directly to their brilliant design of contol across all three axes of flight. The Europeans, in contrast, thought of airplanes as airborne sailing ships or automobiles, which caused them to invent flying bricks that could barely turn and couldn't begin to manage pitch, yaw and roll. By 1908, the Wright's carefull experiments had produced a fully controllable aircraft that could outfly anything anyone else had to offer. The world quickly overtook the Wrights, however, and the history of the airplane since 1908 has been the story of a million strokes of genius, each leading in its own fascinating way to the modern airplane.

Spenser has done a superb job of describing the process by which brilliant and courageous people, exchanging ideas and building on experience, have dramatically changed the world we live in.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a813228) out of 5 stars A fantastic tale of the fascination of flight 18 Jun. 2009
By Edward Durney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Birds do it. Bees do it. But for most of history, people could not. (Not to mention educated fleas.)

Even so, humans have long been fascinated by flight. Through the ages, many men (and women, though Jay Spenser gives little mention to Amelia Earhart and other female aviators) have tried to follow the example of birds and bees. Leonardo da Vinci filled many of the pages of his notebooks with figures of flying machines (all of them, curiously, with flapping wings like a bird's, an idea that never worked but fooled even Leonardo). Now flying machines fill our skies, and flying has become a commonplace to most Americans.

In The Airplane, Jay Spenser gives a history of the technology and the people behind flying. He has a fascination with both. The major figures are there -- the Wright Brothers, Octave Chanute, Charles Lindbergh, Otto Lilienthal. But many other people also make these pages. Hundreds of people. Focusing on the faces of airplane history makes the tale Jay Spenser tells more interesting than a bare history of technology would be.

But technology gets its share of attention. In fact, technology stars, with people playing only a supporting role. Jay Spenser organizes the book to follow, for the most part, different aspects of technology -- wings, landing gear, engines, the fuselage. He fills the book with a lot of pictures, too, which helps a lot in understanding the technology. The pictures are printed right next to the text, not gathered in the center in glossy pages. Still, they are printed well and look good, so the pictures add greatly to the book.

Focusing on those pieces of planes gives a unique, careful look at how technology can develop differently for different functions. For example, the Wright Brothers did a great job on their wings -- providing lift so great that a primitive, hand-built engine could power the plane -- and in controlling the plane in three dimensions. Not so great on their first engine (which could run only for a few minutes), or landing gear (they used skids long after others switched to wheels), or steering system (they used wing-warping, which quickly went obsolete, rather than ailerons). But that huge lift and their control scheme got them off the ground and, for several years, had the Wright Brothers soaring while all others hopped.

The Airplane does have its faults. Just a few examples of things I did not like. The writing was spotty, with some parts harder to get through than others. The last section on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner read like a Boeing public relations person wrote it. The section on engines told how radial engines were different from rotary engines, with the latter quickly fading from the scene, but did not tell the difference between the two (it took a look at the Internet to understand that difference). The reason for the Wright Brothers giving up their huge technological lead gets no mention. All those things could have been done much better.

But no book is perfect. In The Airplane, Jay Spenser tells very well how ideas gave us wings. He tells many tales that I had never heard before, and I have long been fascinated by the history of flight. Well worth reading.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aead930) out of 5 stars A Great Introductory Text for Engineers 23 Feb. 2009
By Dr. Hypersonic - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jay Spenser's The Airplane: How Ideas Gave Us Wings is a significant addition to the literature on air and space. Gracefully and insightfully written, it is ideally suited for schools and colleges, the perfect introduction to flight for non-specialists and specialists alike. I guarantee that once you have read this illuminating and thoughtful book, you will never regard an airplane with a dismissive eye again. Bravo!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a8134b0) out of 5 stars The Airplane How ideas gave us wings 19 April 2010
By Nicholas Bielanowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having over 600 books in my Aviation library, I was pleasantly surprised to find new information concerning the rise of aviation presented in a very well written manner. This book is a worthy addition to my home library.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a813450) out of 5 stars Simplistic, yet enjoyable. 25 Jan. 2009
By Scott Thiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm sure engineers might balk about some of the simplistic descriptions in the book, but for everyone else, including die-hard aviation fanatics, the book is an interesting read.
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