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!
The Wright Brothers
Softbound, 8.5" x 11.0" x 0.5", 144 pages
Recommended Retail Price: $25.00
20 pictures/diagrams, black and white
Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 19 Nov 2017
This book covers the Wright Brothers' activities during the two years following their four successful powered flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on 17 December 1903. All of these flights were in a straight line into a strong prevailing wind, and the longest distance covered was about 800 feet. Unfortunately, a wind gust picked up the airplane, rolled it around and practically destroyed it, ending their 1903 flying season. They packed up their equipment, what was left of the airplane, and returned to Dayton, Ohio.
Before the first week of January 1904 ended, the Brothers, along with their able assistant Charles E. Taylor, had begun work on a new airplane with a new, more powerful engine, along with significant airframe changes. The Brothers found a 130-acre cow pasture near Dayton, called the Huffman Prairie, and secured the owner's permission to use this space for their further flight experiments provided they "would drive his cows to a safe place and not run over them." The Brothers built a hangar there where the new Wright Flyer II would be assembled and stored.
The first flight attempt was on 23 May 1904, but light winds did not allow the machine to become airborne before running off the end of the launching rail. This problem of light winds in conjunction with the difficulty of having to lay out the launching rail into prevailing wind before each flying session led to the invention of a catapult system, which used a 1,200 lb weight in conjunction with a rope and pulley system to launch the airplane. The catapult system was a great success, and helped the Wrights to more rapidly develop their airplane and piloting skills. On 20 September, during the 52nd flight of the Flier II, Wilbur executed the first 360° turn ever accomplished by a powered airplane. A total of 105 flights were made in 1904.
A new airplane, the Flyer III, was built for the 1905 flying season. Its engine used some components from the 1904 engine, but experimental development continued to refine nearly every aspect of the craft. By the end of 1905, the Brothers were circling Huffman Prairie until the fuel was exhausted. They decided to end the 1905 flying season early after only 49 flights because their activities had attracted a robust press following and they were afraid the attention might sabotage their quest to obtain patents for their invention.
One has to admire the Wright's perseverance. Nearly one in four of their flights resulted in aircraft damage and occasional minor injury to the pilot. After each incident, they patiently repaired the aircraft, nursed their wounds, and kept slowly progressing. They overcame numerous technical obstacles while all the time fretting over delays with obtaining patents, which were finally issued in 1906.Blake's book does an admirable job of explaining the activities and underlying concepts during this formative period of aircraft development, bringing to light a number of details about the Flyers and their engines. This is a work with which all airplane aficionados should be acquainted.
Softbound, 5.4" x 8.2" x 1.0", 432 pages
Recommended Retail Price: $17.95
35 b/w illustrations
Reviewed by Tom Fey - 11 Nov 2017
Sonic Wind chronicles in detail the amazing life of Col. John Paul Stapp MD, PhD (1910-1999), “The Fastest Man on Earth”. The son of missionary Baptist parents, Stapp earned a PhD in biophysics in 1940, his MD degree from the University of Minnesota in 1943, and went onto active duty in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the fall of 1944. Nearing the end of his service, Stapp was posted to the Aeromedical Lab at Wright Field as a project engineer to study pilot escape technology. This posting started his life-long, illustrious, and pioneering work on determining the deceleration force limits of the human body.
Fluent in German, he reviewed all the captured wartime German intelligence regarding ejection seats, then went on to champion the use of rocket and compressed-air driven sleds, a programmed swing seat, and elastic-powered chair-sled to determine the limits of human tolerance to rapid deceleration as well as the effectiveness and evolutionary design of restraint systems. Stapp subjected himself to each of these devices, demonstrating that the human could safely tolerate up to 40 times the force of gravity with properly designed restraint devices. In addition, Stapp managed the series of “Manhigh” parachute jumps from altitudes exceeding 100,000 feet, paving the way for high altitude ejection systems and breaking trail on the largely unknown biophysical risks inherent in the coming age of space flight.
Despite being in the U.S. military, Stapp was adamant about studying the forces of automobile impacts to reduce the ever-growing number of deaths and injuries on American roads in the1950s. He slyly couched his research as serving the safety of the motoring military, yet his findings would have wide application and significant headwinds in the civilian realm. John Paul Stapp was a true scientist with a healthy ego, a diverse intelligence, quirky sense of humor, a complex personal life, a flair for public relations, and a manic drive to find ways to reduce death and injury in the airways and roadways. It is said that Stapp’s pioneering work has indirectly saved more lives than anyone else in history, “The ghosts that never happened”. Author Craig Ryan has produced a nicely balanced, well researched, and finely written book about the perfect, imperfect man at the perfect time to do the dirty work that begets monumental progress. This is an important story, very well told.
Japanese Aero-Engines 1910 - 1945
Hardbound, 8.3" x 11.7" x 0.7", 216 pages
Recommended Retail Price: £30.00
pictures/diagrams, black and white
Reviewed by George Rowley - 2 Aug 2017
Here is a new treasure.
Japanese Aero-Engines describes a multitude of engines, certainly over a hundred, in as much detail as the authors have been able to find over years of research. Their information is clearly organized and is communicated in direct, plain and straightforward language, so there is no wondering what they meant. Plenty of tables throughout make it easy to compare different engines, or different variants. Most chapters are provided with insightful summaries at the end, which could serve the reader just as well as introductions. All the photos (black-and-white) are large, clear and sharp.
Japanese Aero-Engines has no wasted space at all. There is one flyleaf. The next page is the title page; on its other side are the table of contents and the publishing information. The very next page begins the story. Each page is full of text and lots of information. The pages feel thin as if careless handling might rip the paper, but the paper is slick and the print does not show through from the back. The authors are British so there are no language translation issues.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The things that bothered me were all minor:
There are a few typos, but the only two I spotted that have any factual value are in Table 2/2, where the Kotobuki engine is given Type Number 975, instead of 97, and in Table 2/7, where the Hiro Type 91 engine is attributed to operational use in E7K aircraft in general instead of in the E7K1 only. Too many words are meaninglessly interrupted by hyphens not cleared after formatting the text.
Measurements are in metric ISO units only. For English values, use 25.4 mm per inch, 61 cubic inches per liter, 2.2 lbs for a kilogram, and 3.28 feet in a meter (for performance altitudes). English and metric horsepower are essentially identical. Happily, the authors don’t give power in kW.
Despite all the cross-referencing tabulations of engine types, and tables that reference engine types to the aircraft in which they were used, there is no list that lets you look an aircraft up to find out what engine it used. For this, you must go to another source, either Japanese Aircraft 1910-1941 by Mikesh and Abe, or Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by Francillon, or look on the Web. Many of the tables continue from one page to the next, but on the second page, the column headings don’t repeat. You will have to go back to the first page, count over to the column you want, then count to the same column on the second page.
But never mind these minor complaints. This book has taken a seemingly indecipherable subject and laid it out plain and clear. Japanese Aero-Engines will absolutely be the long-term basic reference for Japanese engines in the same way as Mikesh & Abe and Francillon are for aircraft.
Amazon claims the list price is $59, but they are selling it for $34, which is a serious bargain for the tremendous amount of information in it. The publisher is a small specialty publishing house who seem to have a philosophy of small print runs. So if you think you may want a copy, you’d best get it sooner. If you’re not sure, the following description may help you decide.
The introductory material defines some of the problems in studying the subject. While there hasn’t been much written in English about Japanese aircraft engines, there hasn’t been a lot published in Japan either. There are difficulties in the translation of terms into English, and problems with engine nomenclature from a plethora of designation systems. We also have painted for us a general view of aviation manufacturing in Japan, including the two broad phases into which it naturally divides. Various difficulties largely unique to Japan that affected the aero engine industry are described as well.
The first chapter tells how aviation activities started in the pioneer era in Japan as they did elsewhere in the world. No one event stands as a milestone for the beginning of aero engines, so the date of 1910 in the book’s title is an approximation. The engine-building efforts of early pioneers are described, followed by a description of how Japan, at peace, benefitted from advances made in the Western world enmeshed in a Great War.
The authors then provide us a chapter to clarify the nomenclature of Japanese engines. I describe this chapter in some detail to give a flavor of the book as a whole. This has always been a confusing topic because there were far too many name systems. The authors solve the problem by clear organization.
Wisely setting aside the various manufacturers’ own product nomenclatures until the individual company chapters to follow, the authors go the source of the confusion, which lay with the military. The Army used one system called Type Numbers, which were based on the year of the ancient and traditional Japanese calendar—the same Type Numbers as for aircraft, armored vehicles, guns, and other equipment—and another system that assigned a Ha-number to each engine; Ha is the first part of the Japanese word for engine. The Navy also used a Type Number designation system, which matched the Army system much of the time, but sometimes not. They also used a popular name designation system (Kotobuki, Zuisei, Atsuta). A third Navy method was a Short designation system, with each engine assigned a letter-letter-number nomenclature, similar to the way the Navy gave each aircraft type a letter-number-letter Short designation. Fourth, there was also a Shi-number system that tracked each new Navy experimental engine project.
Since many engines were used by both services, the resulting confusion led them to clean it up—by introducing yet another system. This Joint system used a Ha-number like the Army’s system, but with each engine assigned a new, different number! The authors keep these two Ha- systems clear by writing the Joint Ha- numbers in square brackets. Thus, the [Ha-12] was a completely different engine from the Ha-12 without brackets.
There are various tables which sort and cross-reference the engines by each designation method and also show which airplanes they were used in, separated by their use in prototypes only, in service, and in proposed projects.
The remaining chapters are organized by manufacturer. The first of these, on minor manufacturers, goes beyond the title to add suppliers of components to the aero engine industry. There are three suppliers of bearings, five carburetor manufacturers, a company who specialized in exhaust valves, and so forth. For many we are given just the names and locations of these companies; a few others have a brief story told. Propellers and superchargers get about a page each. If the propellers on Japanese aircraft look familiar, it’s because the majority were Hamilton Standard, under pre-war license. Other propellers were built under licenses from VDM and Ratier.
Aichi and Kawasaki are covered together, despite having no business relationship, because they both eventually built the DB 600 and 601 under license. Having the two companies in the same chapter lets the authors readily compare the two products. Their earlier histories, when they built entirely different engines, are described individually. There are some nice black and white photos.
Gasuden and Hitachi are also covered together, for a different reason. Gasuden was an acronym for Tokyo Gas & Electric, which sounds like a utility company, but it was a technology company, founded in 1910 to make “valves and vacuum tubes” (valve being the British name for vacuum tube). Within just a few years Gasuden had expanded into other new technology areas, including the licensed building of foreign aero engines for the Japanese military. They soon were building their own engine designs. In 1939 they were merged into the Hitachi airframe company. The Gasuden name was changed to Hitachi, while airframe work continued at Hitachi’s factory in the city of Tachikawa. Hitachi engines were in the smaller range, from about Kinner-size to Wasp Junior size, and powered most of the trainers and some reconnaissance and small transport aircraft. Surprisingly, there are no photographs, although examples of Hitachi engines survive in airplanes in several museums in Asia.
The chapter on Hiro and Yokosuka engines is one of the shortest, with eight pages. The two are treated together because they were both Navy organizations, while all the other manufacturers were commercial. Hiro (not to be confused with the WW1-era Hiero engines from Austria) had a successful series of W-12s and a W-18 which they developed after license production of Lorraine W-12s. Hiro’s engines were substantially different. Detailed descriptions are provided, with information that isn’t available anywhere else. There are no photos.
Now we come to the two biggest manufacturers, Mitsubishi and Nakajima. Each of these occupies two chapters, divided into pre-war and Pacific War parts, and total 43 and 60 pages respectively. Each engine subtype is described, and there are photos throughout.
Jet engines get attention in the final chapter. This devotes sixteen pages, with photos, to the story of rockets (solid and liquid), a pulsejet, a ramjet, a motorjet, and various turbojets. There is also a short mention of a turboprop engine. The German contribution is described.
The first two appendices list Army and Navy aircraft by their Short designations. Unfortunately, this omits all aircraft types before the Short designation systems were created. Another appendix adds a comprehensive list of Japanese terms translated into English, such as aircraft names, engine names, and the names of associations, companies, government offices, etc. There is an index of engines, broken down into categories and subcategories, which means that to look an engine up, you will have to look in the right place. A bibliography is last.
Reinenting the Propeller
Hardbound, 6.3" x 9.4" x 1.1", 393 pages
Recommended Retail Price: $120.00
25 b/w illustrations, 4 tables
Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 1 May 2017
This book has nearly everything a propulsion book ought to have. It covers visionaries, inventors and manufacturers that developed and produced modern propellers, and explores the propeller's impact upon the world.
Kinney introduces us to Frank W. Caldwell, who as the civilian head of the U.S. Army Air Service Engineering Division Propeller Unit, shaped the future of American propeller development. Caldwell's WWI experience had convinced him that wood was not a suitable material for increasingly higher aircraft power and speed. Under his leadership, the world's first dedicated propeller whirl testing facility was built at McCook Field, near Dayton, Ohio. Here, propeller specialists could spin large propellers to destruction at speeds far higher than they would ever see in service. This promoted the investigation of propeller materials, construction and mechanisms.
The NACA conducted civilian propeller research. William F. Durand and Everett P. Leslie at Stanford University, and Fred E. Weick at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory developed theoretical propeller performance models that were correlated to wind tunnel test data. NACA opened its full size Propeller Research Tunnel at Langley in 1927 under Weick's direction. In addition to its important role in verifying propeller theory, the Propeller Tunnel also facilitated development of the NACA cowling and the integration of the propeller, cowling and nacelle into aircraft wings and fuselages.
Propeller construction evolved from fixed-pitch to ground-adjustable to variable-pitch to constant speed. Materials evolved from wood to solid aluminum to hollow steel, and finally, in the 21st century, to carbon fiber/Kevlar composites. Each of these had its promoters and detractors. Kinney covers the people and major U.S. (Hamilton Standard, Curtiss Electric, Aeroproducts), British (de Havilland, Rotol) and German (VDM) companies that supplied large propellers.
Kinney also explores the surprising reluctance of the American and British aircraft industries to embrace variable-pitch and constant-speed propellers, primarily due to concern over increased weight and complexity. The tide turned in the U.S. when aircraft capable of coast-to-coast air service needed to operate from high-altitude airports and continue to climb if one engine failed; this led to nearly universal adoption of constant-speed propellers for U.S. airlines in the mid-1930s. The British were much slower to install constant-speed propellers, and only after witnessing poor performance of British aircraft against German aircraft with VDM constant-speed propellers did Fighter Command embark on a crash program to install propeller governors. In just 44 days about 300 Spitfires underwent 15 to 20 hour retrofit procedures, making them competitive with Bf 109s just in time for the Battle of Britain.
Propellers took a back seat to jet propulsion after WWII, but despite the popularity and efficiency of turbofans, propellers still fill important niches in general aviation, specialty military and civilian transport aircraft.
This is a book that is hard to put down. It relates the rich history of a specialized technology in an interesting and engaging manner. It is so meticulously documented that the notes alone are worth the book's price. Essays on sources acquaint the reader with archives and other information repositories that could facilitate further research, and an extensive index helps to rapidly locate technologies, organizations and people. Kinney's book excels on many levels and is a welcome addition to this reviewer's library.
AEHS Members: Please sign into the Member’s Bulletin Board for announcements about special discounts available through February 2018.
Jim Allison’s Machine Shop: The First 30 Years
Hardbound , 11.2" x 8.6" x 0.7", 260 pages
Recommended Retail Price: US $40.00
235 pictures/diagrams, black and white
Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 8 December 2016
John Leonard's exploration of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, Allison Branch archives has led to another intriguing look into Allison history. While his last book, The Allison Engine Catalog, presented brief descriptions of Allison engines and products, and covered the period of 1915 - 2007, this one provides a substantially deeper treatment of the early years, 1915 - 1945.
Leonard begins with coverage of Jim Allison's personal life, interests and business ventures. He continues with biographical sketches of Jim's friends, business partners and key employees.
Next, Leonard devotes 39 pages to the history and evolution of the many Allison buildings built mostly in and around the town of Speedway, Indiana. Speedway was the brainchild of Carl Fisher, who, along with Jim Allison and others, had founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1906. Allison was also an investor in the town of Speedway, which provided housing for his employees. Leonard's coverage of the Allison Plants includes numerous maps and photographs.
Several key Allison development projects and products are covered in depth. These include Allison steel-backed bearings, Liberty engines and modifications, marine engines, the X-4520 (an air-cooled X-24 developed in conjunction with the U.S. Army Air Service Engineering Division), and an airship diesel.
Leonard devotes 24 pages to new Allison V-1710 material that has come to light since the publication of Dan Whitney's Vee's for Victory! This includes drawings, photographs, supercharger development concepts and performance charts. Similarly, new material is presented on the Allison V-3420. Leonard also covers Allison gearboxes, gearbox concepts, and many engine concepts that never entered production. Finally early Allison-built turbojets and turboprops are summarized.
This is not only an easy-to-read technical history, but also is a useful reference. I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in Allison history or the development of engines.
Westinghouse J46 Axial Turbojet Family
Softbound, 8.5" x 11.0" x 0.7", 286 pages
Recommended Retail Price: $47.95
77 illustrations, black and white
Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 26 Nov 2016
Paul Christiansen continues his excellent series on Westinghouse gas turbines in his latest book, which covers the J46 family. This is an in-depth account of how the Westinghouse Aviation Gas Turbine division attempted to bridge the gap between the U.S. Navy’s ever-changing requirements and the emerging technologies that might have met them.
The J46 was expected to have been a relatively straightforward development of the Westinghouse J34. However, the integration of an afterburner and all-new electronic control system, coupled with the Navy’s predilection for changing requirements and plans to use the J46 in a number of very different airframes, proved to be more than Westinghouse could accomplish within the aggressive schedule. Several aircraft projects that were to have used the J46 were cancelled and the Vought F7U-3, the only J46-powered aircraft to enter production, had a short service life, partially due to engine issues.
Christiansen begins with a review of the J34 program, which produced many developments and improvements that were central to the J46 program. He then describes elements of the J34-WE-22 and -38 that were to have been shared with the XJ46-WE-2 and ultimately covers procurement and development of the XJ46-WE-2 and -4. Three chapters cover XJ46 and J46-WE-8/A/B and -12/A/B development, production and service. Other chapters chronicle J46-WE-18 and XJ46-WE-1, -3, -5 and -7 development, J46 flight testing, and J46 improvement/growth programs. Christiansen’s Analysis and Conclusions chapter reiterates how the Navy’s indecision and focus on superfluous details added to the technical problems both the J46 and F7U-3 programs faced. Appendices provide engine ratings and specifications, operating limits, a (long) list of YJ46-WE-8A field service problems, and a list of surviving J46 examples.
With 925 citations from 204 sources (nearly all primary), this book, like its predecessor, provides valuable insight into early U.S. gas turbine development. Christiansen is hinting that a book on the early Westinghouse engines (19A, 19B, 9.5A, 9.5B, and 19XB2A, which became the J30) is in the works; this I shall anxiously await.
AEHS Members can get Westinghouse J46 Axial Turbojet Family at a 20% discount by using the discount code from the Members’ Bulletin Board. The book is also available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
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
No 46. Rolls-Royce and the Halifax
No 47. The History of the Rolls-Royce RB211 Turbofan Engine
Hucknall – the Rolls-Royce Flight Test Establishment
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 3. The Performance of a Supercharged Aero Engine
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
Arsenal of Democracy
Beast - The Top Secret Ilmor-Penske Engine
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
Douglas Light Aero Engines
Early Russian Jet Engines and Russian Piston Aero Engines
El motor de la aviación (De la "A" a la "Z")
The Electra Story
The Engines of Pratt & Whitney
Frank Whittle: Invention of the Jet
The Focke-Wulf Ta 152
German Jet Engine and Gas Turbine Development 1930-1945
Hans von Ohain
History of the Liberty Engine
The Knife and Fork Man: The Life and Work of Charles Benjamin Redrup
Luftwaffe Secret Projects
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
Master Motor Builders
Me262 Volume One
Wolseley Radial Aero Engines: Lord Nuffield’s Thwarted Venture
Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation
Piston Aero Engines — 3D CAD Images & Animations
Power To Fly: An Engineer’s Life
R-4360: Pratt & Whitney’s Major Miracle
Rotol: The History of an Airscrew Company
The Race for Hitlerís X-Planes
Rocketbelt Pilot’s Manual
The Romance of Engines
Seven Decades of Progress
Starting Something Big
Tank Aero Engines
Turbojet History and Development 1930-1960 Volumes 1 and 2
The V-12 Engine
Westinghouse J40 Axial Turbojet Family
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