The invention of flight represents the culmination of centuries of thought and desire. Kites and rockets sparked our collective imagination. Then the balloon gave humanity its first experience aloft, though at the mercy of the winds. The steerable airship that followed had more practicality, yet a number of insurmountable limitations. But the airplane truly launched the Aerial Age, and its subsequent impact--from the vantage of a century after the Wright Brother's historic flight on December 17, 1903--has been extraordinary.
Richard Hallion, a distinguished international authority on aviation, offers a bold new examination of aircraft history, stressing its global roots. The result is an interpretive history of uncommon sweep, complexity, and warmth. Taking care to place each technological advance in the context of its own period as well as that of the evolving era of air travel, this ground-breaking work follows the pre-history of flight, the work of balloon and airship advocates, fruitless early attempts to invent the airplane, the Wright brothers and other pioneers, the impact of air power on the outcome of World War I, and finally the transfer of prophecy into practice as flight came to play an ever-more important role in world affairs, both military and civil.
Making extensive use of extracts from the journals, diaries, and memoirs of the pioneers themselves, and interspersing them with a wide range or rare photographs and drawings, Taking Flight leads readers to the laboratories and airfields where aircraft were conceived and tested. Forcefully yet gracefully written in rich detail and with thorough documentation, this book is certain to be the standard reference for years to come on how humanity came to take to the sky, and what the Aerial Age has meant to the world since da Vinci's first fantastical designs.
Flight author and former Air Force Historian Hallion has produced an expertly written single-volume history of flight, from Icarus and Daedalus to England's twin-engine"Bloody Paralyser" of WWI, that has the potential to become the standard work on the subject. The book's strength comes from its deft reconsideration of flight within a much broader context than other historians placed it--i.e.,"the context of prevailing social, cultural, technological, scientific, political, and military history." Aided by numerous illustrations and archival photographs, Hallion's analysis is artful, and his writing consistently clear, whether the subject is the Chinese kite of the second century, the technical accomplishments of Enlightenment designers, the dominance of balloons and airships in the 18th and 19th centuries, the development of American and European aeronautics, or the crucial incorporation of flight technology by the military. Along with profiles of major figures such as the Wright Brothers and Octave Chanute, Hallion takes care to bring to light lesser-known figures such as Sir George Cayley,"the first of the modern pioneers" of aviation, whose airships and the publicity surrounding them, Hallion expertly notes, were the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe's"Balloon Hoax." Hallion's efforts to debunk some of flight history's myths occasionally seem unnecessary, such as his explanation that the Wright Brothers did not work in isolation from their contemporaries (a notion already deflated by T. A. Heppenheimer's First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane). But the bulk of this valuable work should stand the test of time.