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A great disappointment
on 3 October 2002
I've been plane-spotting for over 50 years - once avidly, but now more sporadically and have always sought to keep a useful, reasonably up-to-date recognition book on the shelf.
My 1992 edition of Jane's World Aircraft Recognition handbook is now rather dated and, living near Bremen Airport (and therefore, one of the Airbus factories), I wanted something more contemporary and which would enable me to identify some aircraft which I see frequently but which are appear to be too new for my Jane's. Civil Aircraft Recognition seemed to be the ideal publication - brand new and published by a reputable, specialist in the field.
Let's start with the positive aspects:
1. Convenient size for the pocket
2. Apparently fairly robustly bound in limp cloth covers
3. Good-sized silhouettes
4. All photographs are in colour and some of them are good
From here it's all downhill. There are too many individual failings to list in the space available, so I'll categorise with examples.
1. Silhouettes: The plan views are drawn from above (I don't recall ever seeing this before in a spotters' book) and therefore not very useful for identification.
The entry for the Boeing 737 "Recognition feature" refers to "flat-bottomed engine nacelles except on the 737-100/200", but the photo shows a 737-200 and the the silhouette shows a model with large round (turbofan?) nacelles which seems not to be a -100 or -200 variant.
Similarly, Cessna 550/60 Citation refers to "Compound sweep on wing l/e" but there is no such feature on the page (P.65).
2. There are no indications with silhouettes to indicate which variant they illustrate, and none to indicate the variant to which the accompanying dimensions refer.
3. The appendix of aviation abbreviations is useful - but the text uses several abbreviations which aren't listed!
4. Photographs: A very mixed bag. Too many are of aircraft on the ground and with cluttered backgrounds (and, even worse, foregrounds), shapes confused by undercarriages and shadows, some aircraft with engine parking covers etc in place. The clutter and stripes around the tail of the Antonov An-140 are practically psychodelic!
5. Types covered. This is always a problem for authors who always have a limited space. However, the logic of inclusion/exclusion here is difficult to follow. Some (to me) glaring contradictions: no Airbus 300 (or special-bodied variants - which are regularly seen in and between Airbus Company plants); no illustrations of Dornier 328 (over one hundred built), but full treatment of Fairchild Dornier 328JET (only in prototype form according to the book); Ilyushin 103 (35 built according to the book)- full treatment, but only a small picture of the Liberty XL2 (several hundreds built/ordered). I could go on, but you get the picture. Oh, and I still don't know what is the low/medium-, straight-wing, twin-prop, very long nacelles, T-tailed business/feeder liner which flies regularly over my house!
There is a major gap in the useful-sized spotters' guide market, but it seems that we'll have to wait for the next (and long-overdue) version of Jane's before it's filled. This one certainly doesn't meet the need.