Knights of the Air: The Life and Times of the Extraordinary Pioneers Who First Built British Aeroplanes by Peter King lands on the shelves of my shop, where it will be found in my Transport Air section.
London: Constable, 1989, Hardback in dust wrapper.
Contains: Black & white photographs; Top edge red;
From the cover: Knights of the Air is the story of the men who spent their youth designing and building the first flying-machines: the men who pioneered the British aircraft industry. Some of their aircraft have achieved immortality: the legendary Pup, Camel, Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster. But of the men who designed and built them, men like Frederick Handley Page, Tommy Sopwith, George Holt Thomas and Geoffrey de Havilland, perhaps only Rolls and Royce are still household names.
These pioneers of aviation development were mostly born in the 1880s, were middle-class and far from wealthy. They began to build their empires during World War I, although several of them crashed during the bleak period that followed. World War II revived their fortunes, as somehow they met the challenge of enormously increased production and helped save the nation from invasion. They tested the early jets and speedily built the first post-war jet airliner. But already they were making the wrong decisions errors which would result in bankruptcies, forced mergers and foreign takeovers. In these errors, governments of both complexions played their part.
Peter King describes the knights in all their glamour, skill, idiosyncrasy, greed, flair and desire for power. Quotations from previously unpublished papers, from their colleagues and contemporaries, and from their customers (governments, Air Force, commercial airlines) will for the first time describe how wilful they sometimes were, as well as how brilliantly enterprising, and how entertaining.
The book follows their rise and fall, through the earliest days of wood-and-wire biplanes, the flying-boats, the air shows and joy-rides, the development of fighter planes, the designing of the Spitfire, and the Comet disasters, to the coming of supersonic transport.
Very Good in Good Dust Wrapper. Gently faded at the spine of the dust wrapper which has a small stain to the verso at the foot of the spine. Edges of the text block lightly spotted. Text complete, clean and tight.
Blue boards with Silver titling to the Spine. 544 pages. Index. Bibliography. 9½” x 6¼”.