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Customer Review

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incorrectly titled book?, 13 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Empire of the Clouds: When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World (Hardcover)
The book was bought for me as a present, though I had read about its publication. There are some very interesting parts in it - it would be churlish to suggest otherwise, though I found the author's obsession with Bill Waterton a little overwhelming. The background stories to the test-flying are absorbing, but they seem to focus only on military aircraft, and this is where I have to take issue with the author.

To dismiss airliners as 'aerial buses' as he does on p8 is simply petty. Just as much effort went into the design and production of the Viscount, the BAC 1-11, the Avro 748 and the DH 125, as the military aircraft he describes in such detail. He bemoans the fact that so few of the military aircraft were produced in any quantity, yet all the previously-mentioned aircraft were produced in their hundreds, providing much-needed skills and jobs and helping Britain's balance of payments enormously. His lack of understanding of civil aviation is clear from the fact that despite all the derring-do stories of test pilots, there is no mention of Mike Lithgow's death whilst flight-testing the 1-11. Quantas [sic] on p195 is another example. In Chapter 8 there is some discussion on the Comet, and passing mention of the Viscount and a few other aircraft, but the theme soon returns to the military.

If you're going to title a book as 'Empire of the Clouds' and subtitle it 'When Britain's Aircraft Ruled The World', then it seems only logical to include all of the Empire and all of the aircraft in there. I appreciate that the author may not have had total control over the title(s), but any book dealing with Britain's aviation history deserves to be more balanced in its' approach to their achievements.

So did Mr Hamilton-Paterson write this book for himself or for the reader?
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Feb 2011 17:31:44 GMT
Bedinog says:
Fascinating review Mr Lloyd, and having just finished reading my copy (also bought as a present), I think where I'd take issue is the author's apparent disparaging of civiil aircraft. 'Aerial buses' is probably meant a little more tongue in cheek than the bald statement suggests because where he does cover civil aircraft, the real efforts and bravery of the test pilots involved, he does so with respect. He does make it clear at page 8 and elsehere that his emphasis is on the aircraft which made the most impression on him at the time, which explains the very obvious subjectivity of the book as a whole.

I agree the subtitle is misleading, but not necessarliy for the reasons you state, for in a book of this size, it would be impossible to cover all the apropriate aircraft. However, in view of the author's pretty frequent references to the UK falling behind the USA and the Soviets in the aero industry from a very early post-war stage, the subtitle seems a contrdiction in terms.
There are few non-technical books on any subject which are not subjective and this one is no different, which gives plenty of scope for dicussion, agreement and disagreement. In this case I think we have a highly readable book, that notwithstanding its faults gives a flavour of days long gone.
I sincerely mean no offence to your review and thank you for making it accessible.
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