Book Review - Airlines of the Jet Age: A History by R. E. G. Davies
If you're interested in aviation history, specifically from the advent of the jetliner going forward, this is a book that needs to be on your reading list... Airlines of the Jet Age: A History by R. E. G. Davies. This has *far* more information than you'd ever want to know about the topic, be it specific plane types, manufactures, or all (and I mean *all*) the various airlines over the years in every country and continent. I'd almost consider this an encyclopedia of jet aviation in a single volume.
Part 1 - Piston-Engine Prelude: Air Transport Infancy; Airline Adolescence; Wartime Hiatus - And Opportunity; Post-War Recovery; Worldwide Expansion
Part 2 - The First Jet Age: The First Jets and Turboprops; Turboprop Ascendancy; The First Big Jets; The Short-Haul Jets; Proliferation; Emergence of the Middle East; Development of a Second Line; The Commuter Airlines; Restoring the Balance
Part 3 - The Second Jet Age: Wide-Bodied Jets; Supersonic Digression; Development of the Breeds; Refining the U.S. Second Line; Regional Airlines Worldwide
Part 4 - Airline Deregulation: The United States Sets the Pace; The Airline World Deregulates; Russian Metamorphosis; Decline of the American Giants; Birth of the Low-Fare Generation
Part 5 - Transformation in Europe: Low-Fare Revolution; British Airways Ascendancy; France Consolidates; Germany Regains a Leading Role; European Airline Attrition; Jet Wings over the Mediterranean; Farthest North with the Scandinavians; Europe Unites
Part 6 - Rise of Asia and the Pacific Rim: The Growth of China; India Awakes; The Subcontinent Fragments; Eastern Asia Emergent; Budget Fares for Southeast Asia
Part 7 - The Commonwealth Adjusts: Airlines of Australia; New Zealand and the Pacific; Canada Reorganizes
Part 8 - A Continent Made for Air Transport: The Sleeping Giant Awakes; Down Mexico Way; Around the Caribbean; Central America; Airlines of the Andes; Farthest South
Part 9 - Africa: Across the Mediterranean; Sub-Saharan Contradictions; End of the Empire Airlines; To the Cape and Beyond
Part 10 - Transitions: The Third Jet Age Begins; A New Competitor - High Speed Rail; A New Age Beckons
Appendix 1 - Selected Aircraft Specifications; Appendix 2 - Notable Events and Facts; Appendix 3 - Monetary Conversion from 1940 to 2010; Appendix 4 - The Five Freedoms of the Air; Appendix 5 - The World's Largest Airlines
Bibliography; Index; About the Author
The author is recently retired from the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum where he served as the Curator of Air Transport. Given that, you can imagine that he knew his topic well and had access to material that the average layperson never knew existed. At 460 pages of smallish font in two columns (and in an oversized book format to boot), the amount of information he covers is mind-boggling. It's very dense, in that there are few large pictures that take space away from the text. Every picture is relevant to the topic discussed on that page. He also uses simplified maps to good effect to show routes in various countries and to illustrate points where necessary. As you can tell from the table of contents listed above, he discusses anything and everything that is relevant to how we got to where we are today.
I put this on hold at the library without any pre-knowledge of what to expect. I'll admit I was thinking more along the lines of a coffee table book with full-color pictures and a fly-by (sorry, had to do that!) on the actual material. This definitely is not that kind of book. Yet in many ways, I got more enjoyment out of this format than the one I expected. I obviously learned *much* more, and I had to laugh at some of the unusual stories, especially those related to airlines in Africa. When you see pictures of 747s emblazoned with names like Cameroon Airlines or Kenya Airways, you have to wonder what the quality of the country's infrastructure might be in terms of supporting airworthy planes. In a number of cases, the image and reality were miles apart. Financial mismanagement, politics, nepotism, and horrific crashes often caused many of these airlines to have a short life. The funniest situation had to be Eritrean Airlines, which started business with two ground-handling agents in Asmara and Massawa... no planes, mind you... just ground agents. :)
While this isn't a "curl up in a chair by the fire and relax" book, I have to give Airlines of the Jet Age a top rating for the incredible amount of history, detail, and information that went into this. It's rare that you can consider a single book to be *the* reference resource you need to have on your shelves, but if this is your area of interest, you need this book.
Obtained From: Library