Books about aircraft engines are not confined strictly to collectors' dusty shelves. New ones are being published all the time. Many of these books, both old and new are reviewed in this section.
Please note that the opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Aircraft Engine Historical Society. If you have a different impression of a book, send us a review!
Rocketbelt Pilot's Manual
Softbound, 7" x 10" x 0.3", 106 pages
Recommended Retail Price: $22.95
128 pictures/diagrams, black and white
Reviewed by Tom Fey
For those old enough to remember James Bond taking flight in Thunderball (1965), dueling pilots at the first Super Bowl (1967), or the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, rocketbelt flight has always been a mesmerizing event. The technology of the rocketbelt and the unblemished safety record of the Bell Rocketbelts (others have constructed successful units) are amazing accomplishments, considering the unit has no lifting surfaces, no more than 21.5 seconds of powered flight per session, generates 1,000 horsepower, 330 lbs of thrust from 110 lbs take-off weight, and exhaust temperature over 1,300°F.
Bill Suitor flew all three of the aforementioned events, and well over a thousand flights altogether. Through photographs, drawings, and descriptions with an easily understood vocabulary, the author takes you step by step through the belt itself, showing the early “cold thrust” test rigs, the rocket engine, peroxide fuels, flight system mechanics, tethered flight, and the actions required to successfully plan and execute a rocketbelt flight. This was all bellcrank, cable, and pilot judgment technology; no gyros, data displays, or radio communication. Suitor nicely credits the Bell pioneers and patent holders for the technology, with many photographs of these men and the varied iterations of the technology that were prototyped in the 1960’s.
thought I’d never see book about this amazing “aircraft” engine, but Suitor comes through with a nice work on a truly amazing flight propulsion system. Highly recommended.
The V12 Engine
Hardcover, 210mm x 270mm x 28mm, 424 pages
Recommended Retail Price: £40.00
350 b/w, 32 color illustrations
Reviewed by Doug Culy
Ludvigsen covers 100 years of V12 engine development, focusing on race car engines, sports car engines, sedan engines, and aircraft engines in that order. The index shows that over 400 different engines are discussed. Some engines merit four or more pages, some get only a paragraph. There are many photos and line drawings, as well as accounts of people, cars, and companies. Individual engine stories are full of details on all aspects of engine design. Overall The V12 Engine is an outstanding presentation of just about all that you would want to know about an obviously fascinating engine layout; and is a follow-on to the smaller but equally excellent book of his, Classic Racing Engines. This reviewer is of the opinion that aircraft engine development and race car engine development have more similarity of challenges than differences, so The V12 Engine is well worth its price. Mr. Ludvigsen is also a member of the AEHS.
Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation
Softcover, 114mm x 217mm x 8mm, 161 pages
Recommended Retail Price: US $30.00
152 photographs and drawings
Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon
It is always a thrill when an AEHS member writes and publishes a book. Giacinta Bradley Koontz’s book Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation is no exception. “Gia” is probably best known for her columns and contributions to Aircraft Maintenance Technician, Ground Support Worldwide, Director of Maintenance, Helimx and Air & Space. She also authored The Harriet Quimby Scrapbook, the life of America’s First Birdwoman (1875-1912).
Based in part on her aforementioned columns, Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation is a series of 24 biographical vignettes about men and women whose names are both familiar and not. These include Charlie Taylor, Charles Manly, Fredrick Rentschler, Winfield Kinner, Katherine Stinson, Martin Sensenich, Bud Gurney, Bernard Pietenpol, Mary Solbrig, Jerosla Dobias, Willa Chappell, Phoebe Omlie and Ruth Nichols.
This book is different from most other books reviewed here in that it concentrates less on the technical and more on the people. Its production quality is excellent and its stories are wonderful. It has dozens of vintage photographs and a full set of references.
The Engines of Pratt & Whitney:
Hardcover, 6.3" x 9.2", 548 pages
Recommended Retail Price: US $49.95
Photos, drawings, charts, and diagrams
Reviewed by Doug Culy
Jack Connors’ book is by far the most interesting book yet written for aircraft engine development engineers interested in the history of the business as well as that of the engines. This so because Jack Connors IS one, as is this reviewer. It should also be quite entertaining for any other lover of engines. Connors provides anecdotes, timelines, component data, problems and solutions, people insights, a few program costs, and many, many charts and tables to satisfy the technically curious. The bottom line is that The Engines of Pratt & Whitney is worth far more than its price.
The book has 511 pages, not including the index, of which 159 cover the piston engines, with 352 pages covering almost all of the turbine engine programs (rockets too). Connors arrived at P&WA in 1948, retiring in 1983, and worked on the jet engine programs at the lowest and very high technical and managerial levels, so he has many perspectives of what and why things happened.
His discussion of the PT-1 provides an order of magnitude more pictures and information on this free-piston compressor-driven turbine than has been seen before. He provides a little more data on the PT5/T57 to give us some more understanding of the engine that should be on the A400M. Connors greatly illuminates the mysterious 304 hydrogen turbojet, and gives terrific coverage to the big well-known programs. For these, there are also many little-known tidbits provided.
The coverage of the piston engine programs is not nearly as satisfying, mostly because there are few, if any survivors to give insights, and Connors worked mostly if not entirely on turbines. The R-4360 is described, as is the little-known R-2180E, but nothing of value is provided in the three paragraphs on the R-2800. Don’t let this deter you from reading the book, as the widely revered The Development of Aircraft Engines by Schlaifer has huge gaps that don’t hurt its value as a reference.
Table of Contents
Douglas Light Aero Engines:
Paperback, 170mm x 240mm x 20mm, 232 pages
Recommended Retail Price: £16.95
Photos, drawings, charts, and diagrams
Reviewed by Bill Allan
Written by one of our members, this book tells the story of the development of light aero engines, by the motorcycle company, Douglas, in the Bristol area, and further developments at Weir Pumps in Glasgow.
Introduction — a three page brief history of the Douglas Company, introduction to the motorcyclist and engineer, C. G. Pullin, who was the major figure in the development of these engines, and the move to Glasgow, where the development of the helicopter took place. An interesting point made (which struck me) is that an explanation is given to horsepower rating, then, and subsequently.
Forward — a one page statement from the great grandson of the founder of the Douglas Company.
Chapter 1: Wings For Twins — ten pages, describing the Under-Secretary for Air’s 1923 incentive for the development of ultra-light aircraft, in the UK, known as the Lympne (Kent) Light Aircraft Competition. One page has a list of entrants and with one page of photographs, and each aircraft and engine used is described. Subsequent to this was the 1924 Rhon Glider & Light Aircraft Competition, and, again, one page lists the entrants, with a page of photographs.
Chapter 2: Flying Flywheels — Fourteen pages, including graphs, photographs, descriptions, installation drawings, (one page only) of the use of Douglas motorcycle engines in aviation to 1932. The specification pages give the facts and figures, including materials used. Finally, there is a one page chronology of the Douglas aero engine developments.
Chapter 3: Dark Clouds Over Bristol – Short four page chapter. Describes the takeover of Douglas, the start of work on an autogiro, and the move North to Glasgow. Also, the start of specifically designed aero engines.
Chapter 4: Designed To Fly — Sixteen pages, including seven pages of photographs, three pages of drawings, and three pages of specification, of the design of these new purpose built aero engines, to photographs being of aircraft fitted with these engines. One fault — the aircraft in the lower picture on page 56 is a Helmy Aerogypt, described later on in the book.
Chapter 5: Refinement By Proxy — Nineteen pages delving in a more technical manner into the Weir engines, with three and a half pages of photographs, three pages of engine specifications, and nine pages of technical drawings plus sections of the engines and their features, including a patent drawing for an oil cooler.
Chapter 6: Dreams Of Power — What Might Have Been. My favourite part of the book. Twenty-three pages, much as the previous chapter, with one and a half pages of photographs, a cutaway drawing of the Monarch engine, nine pages of technical illustrations, and six pages of specifications of engines planned for the future. Also describes what the company intended to do if they continued.
Chapter 7: Competition — describes, usually, on one page, the other engines that the Douglas/Weir engines were up against, mostly a half page photograph and half page specification, and some of the aircraft fitted with them. There are seventeen photographs in this chapter.
Chapter 8: The Airframes — Sixty-eight pages, forty eight photographs, brief specifications of forty-nine/fifty aircraft fitted with Douglas engines, and twenty-four pages of one-page three-views of some of the aircraft fitted with Douglas engines.
Chapter 9: Auxiliary Power Units — this section would have made an excellent article in Torque Meter (perhaps we could ask our colleague for permission to download this part to the members section of the website). Ten pages, describing generator sets, APUs, and aircraft pressurisation tests, using Douglas engines. The design of the four-cylinder starting engine for the R-R Eagle engine, if expanded, would also make an excellent article. Seven photographs, one small cutaway drawing, and two pages of sectioned drawings of this starter engine, in total.
Chapter 10: Survivors — Extant Engines and Airframes. Nine pages, containing thirteen photographs.
Appendices — three appendices, listing light aero engines produced by Douglas & Weir, data of aircraft fitted with these engines, and a glossary of terms throughout the book including some specifications of the materials used in the construction of the engines.
A one page bibliography, two pages of acknowledgements, and a seven page index complete the book.
Note: all photographs are printed on the pages, not glossy copies.
All in all, an excellent record, of this fascinating, aeronautical achievement. I intend donating a copy to Glasgow University library.
Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Historical Series
No 2. The Merlin in Perspective - the combat years
No 15. Olympus: the inside story
No 16. Rolls Royce Piston Aero Engines – a designer remembers
No 18. The Rolls-Royce Dart - pioneering turboprop
No 19. The Merlin 100 Series - the ultimate military development
No 21. The Rolls-Royce Crecy
No 26. Fedden
No 28. Boxkite to Jet
No 29. Rolls-Royce on The Front Lines - The life and times of a Service Engineer
No 30. The Rolls-Royce Tay Engine and the BAC One-Eleven
No 31. An Account of Partnership - Industry, Government and the Aero Engine
No 32. The Bombing of Rolls-Royce at Derby
No 34. Pistons to Blades
No 35. The Rolls-Royce Meteor
No 36. 50 Years with Rolls-Royce
No 39. Parkside: Armstrong Siddeley to Rolls-Royce 1939-1994
No 41. Overhaul of Merlin Engines in India and the USSR
No 43. Eagle: Henry Royce’s First Aero Engine
Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Technical and Special Series
No 1. Rolls-Royce and the Rateau Patents
No 2. The Vital Spark - the development of aero-engine sparking plugs
No 4. Flow Matching the Stages of Axial Compressors
No 5. Fast Jets - the history of reheat development at Derby
No 7. Rocket Development with Liquid Propellants
No 9. The Allison Engine Catalog - 1915-2007
No 10. The Rolls-Royce Spey
Special. Sectioned drawings of Piston Aero Engines
Special: Alex Moulton: Bristol to Bradford-on-Avon---a lifetime in engineering
Advanced Engine Development at Pratt & Whitney
A Pictorial A to Z of Vintage and Classic Model Airplane Engines
Beautiful Engines: Treasures of the Internal Combustion Century
British Light Aeroplanes
By Precision Into Power: A Bicentennial Record of D. Napier & Son
Classic Racing Engines
Early Russian Jet Engines and Russian Piston Aero Engines
El motor de la aviación (De la "A" a la "Z")
Frank Whittle: Invention of the Jet
German Jet Engine and Gas Turbine Development 1930–1945
Hans von Ohain
History of the Liberty Engine
Luftwaffe Secret Projects
Master Motor Builders
Me262 Volume One
The Knife and Fork Man: The Life and Work of Charles Benjamin Redrup
Wolseley Radial Aero Engines: Lord Nuffield's Thwarted Venture
Power To Fly: An Engineer's Life
R-4360: Pratt & Whitney's Major Miracle
Seven Decades of Progress
Starting Something Big
Tank Aero Engines
The Magic of a Name THE ROLLS-ROYCE STORY: The First 40 Years
The Magic of a Name THE ROLLS-ROYCE STORY Part Two: The Power Behind the Jets
The Romance of Engines
Turbojet History and Development 1930-1960 Volumes 1 and 2
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