Book Reviews 5
The Electra Story
Used Price: ~$27.95
Reviewed by Tom Fey - 16 August 2014
While at the Oshkosh Fly Market last month, I found a hardcopy edition of Robert J. Serling’s The Electra Story: Aviation’s Greatest Mystery. First published in 1963, the book looked like a great read, but at $45, not in the budget. Amazon.com has used copies, both hardback and the paperback edition printed by Bantam in 1991, for $27 on up. My local library did not have a copy, but I was able to obtain a copy via Inter Library Loan for free. The book was well worth chasing down.
The Lockheed L-188 Electra was the first American 4-engine turboprop commercial transport. It first flew in late 1957, entered into airline service in January 1959, and was claimed by Lockheed President Robert Gross to be the most rigorously tested aircraft in history.
However, two fatal crashes, six months apart, both due to wing separation while in cruise flight, severely tested the CAB, FAA, NASA, Lockheed, Allison, and Congress, as well as the entire commercial aircraft and airline industry. The author does a fantastic job describing the building and testing of the Electra, its entry into service, the accidents, the politics, the theories, and the compelling hunt for the truth of what happened and why on the two primary accidents as well as subsequent incidents. The resulting airframe remedies are explained in worthwhile detail and are accompanied by several drawings. But for me, the narrative of how and where the corrected Electra was flown to prove her new-found integrity is almost beyond belief and would certainly never be allowed today.
At only 171 pages in the paperback, I highly recommend first reading the book, and then take a look at the video linked below which reproduces, at 1/8th scale, the known, but completely unexpected, phenomenon that downed the Electra. It is a fascinating story.
Hardbound, 30cm X 23cm (A4), 178 pages
Price (March 30, 2006): €34.90 from www.amazon.de
Reviewed by Jerry Wells
The main features of this book are outstanding quality and excellent value. Every page is printed on top quality, glossy paper and the photo reproduction is very good (i.e., non-digital). Plainly, the book is backed and subsidized by the giant M.T.U. aerospace corporation based in Munich. A book of this quality would normally retail at double the price being asked.
Helmut Schubert is an experienced aero-engine author, he being one of the trio that wrote the definitive "Flugmoteren and Stahitriebwerke" some time ago. This book covers aero-engine development in Germany from the first Zeppelins through to production in 1997. It is not all embracing but rather, it details some interesting aspects as seen by the author.
The first 50 or so pages deal with piston engine development—most of the usual suspects are covered, e.g., BMW, Siemens, Daimler-Benz and M.A.N.
Pages 51 to 70 provide an intriguing review of German WWII gas turbines with some previously unpublished photos and drawings pertaining to the period.
The final 100 or so pages detail the design, development and manufacture of gas turbines in West Germany from the 1950s onwards. The story starts with the little BMW 6012 helicopter engine which was an indigenous creation. From then on, practically all German aero-engine production has been based on collaborative projects with Canadian, British and American companies resulting in production of such engines as the GE J79, R-R RB 199, P&W 2037 and the IAE V2500. Colour photos abound in this section.
At the back of the book, there is a four page, "Main Events" summary starting at 1888 and going through to 1999.
Conclusion: A beautifully presented aero-engine book available at a very reasonable price.
Power To Fly
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc., 2005
List Price (March 30, 2006): US $39.95
40 black & white illustrations
Reviewed by Jerry Wells
This book is the second one with the title, The Power to Fly that I have inducted into my library, the first being the highly entertaining 1971 work by L.J.K. Setright. Also, it is the third book I have read in recent times written by an executive of the General Electric Company, the other two being the recently republished, Herman the German by Gerhard Neumann and Starting Something Big by Bob Garvin. Neumann's book has only 4 (of 20) chapters devoted to his time at GE, whereas, Garvin's work is all about the GE aero-engine business.
At first glance, The Power to Fly appears to be a conventional case-bound book but, in fact, it is a hard-cover paper back, known in the trade as a "cardboard article"—not as good as a hardbound publication but quite sturdy, none the less. If opened and laid flat the book will spring shut. The dust cover is rather strange in that it has a black background with a jet engine which has the author standing in the intake using the well-known finger-in-the-air gesture to indicate that GE is "number one", but this could easily be misunderstood! Apart from this, the cover is dull. This book is presented in 18 chapters but is somewhat unusual in that each chapter is subdivided by use of headings. These range in number from two to twelve. Perhaps it's the sort of tidy logic to be expected from an engineer!
Brian Rowe was born in England and upon leaving school, took up an apprenticeship at the deHavilland Company. After nine years there, he applied for a job with GE. All this is compressed into the first chapter. The following 18 chapters are purely about America and GE. Of the co-author, Martin Ducheny, we are told absolutely nothing which is a pity because it seems rather odd that the president of GE engines should need anyone to help him write a book.
Chapters 2 to 7 give a potted history of GE gas turbine engines from the 1950s through to the 1980s. Brian Rowe's first job at GE was to develop the lift-fan engine which was eventually tested in the little T-tailed Ryan XV-5A aircraft. He holds the patent for the design.
Chapters 8 to 12 move away from technical matters and deal more with aspects of management. Rowe's capacity for organizing programs and working with people was considerable as evidenced by his rapid rise through the ranks of GE.
In Chapter 13 he gets back to technical matters and describes the conception and development of the huge GE90 turbo-fan engine—a project with which he was closely associated and one which meant a lot to him. The GE90 had its first flight in a Boeing 777 in February 1995 just after he had retired. What he has to say about the launching of the GE90 is most interesting.
The remaining five chapters ramble through his post-retirement life which was fairly predictable—serving on Boards of Companies, building houses and enjoying just about everything money can buy. After 35 years at a company like GE, most of them at, or near the top, Brian Rowe would have retired a very wealthy man.
In summary, this book is a good read. What spoils it somewhat is that the text is not only small but also quite faint. Sure, it is readable but I doubt that many people would find it comfortable reading, especially those in the older age group. This is a great contrast to Bob Garvin's book (also from the AIAA) which has good sized, clear print making it a very "reader friendly" piece of literature.
The Power to Fly has 40 illustrations. Many of the photos are derived from coloured originals and suffer in quality because of it. No fewer than 12 of the pictures feature Brian, including one of B.H.R. and a business acquaintance sunbathing on a beach—not a very efficacious sight! However, with the publication of this book, we now have accounts of aero-engine development at General Electric from three GE executives, namely Neumann, Garvin and Rowe, so the events are well documented.
Early Russian Jet Engines
Soft Cover, 21cm x 14cm (A5), 116 pages
Price: NZ $43.00 (+p&p)
134 illustrations 21 coloured)
Russian Piston Aero Engines
Hard Cover (dust jacket) 28cm x 22cm (A4),270 pages
Price: NZ $110.00 (+p&p)
470 illustrations, all Black & White
Review by Jerry Wells
These two books by Russian author, Vladimir Kotelnikov provide new pieces in the jigsaw that is aero-engine history and, as such, they are most welcome. Kotelnikov has chosen to publish his works in English and both books have been printed in the UK.
Early Russian Jet Engines starts with a survey by Kotelnikov of the first Soviet turbo-jet engines during the period 1937-39. The second chapter describes the application of captured German technology after WWII and this is followed by an account of how British know-how was gained (quite a lot of it by stealth!). Chapter 4 is contributed by Buttler and describes the political difficulties that beset Rolls-Royce in their attempt to sell jet-engines to the Soviet Union.
In the final two chapters, Kotelnikov covers the production of the Rolls-Royce Nene and Derwent copies by various Russian factories. His description of the origin and manufacture of the VK-1 differs markedly from that given by Bill Gunston in his Aero-Engines (1986).
1) Attractive cover - gold writing on bright red background.
2) Good sized, clear print on good quality paper.
3) Coloured pictures of early Russian jets are nice.
1) Small page size severely limits photo and drawing presentation.
2) Tight spine binding is "reader unfriendly".
3) Engine photos and drawings too small.
4) Too many aircraft photos.
5) Too many blank spaces throughout the text.
Conclusion: Worth buying, lots of new info.
Russian Piston Aero Engines gives a complete and comprehensive overview of all the piston aircraft engines ever used, copied or manufactured in the Soviet Union. Part 1, (20 of 270 pages) is concerned with history and background - such things as State control, central organization, factories, testing and military requirements. Part 2 gets down to the business of classifying and describing the huge variety of engines deployed by the U.S.S.R. from 1917 to the present day. In the Soviet-style command-economy, there were no independent engine manufacturing companies that are familiar in the West so types of engines tended to be associated with designers such as Klimov or Mikulin and this is the basis for much of the grouping in this book.
Mr. Kotelnikov, who was born in Moscow in 1951, obviously has a very good command of the English language but with a technical work such as this, a review of the text prior to publication by someone who a) has a fair knowledge of the subject and b) has English as their first language, is essential. This hasn't happened and, as a result, some extraordinary statements occur, e.g., "The engine had a crankshaft on roller bearings with lug suspension..." or "...the cylinders had spherical bottoms (an alternative conical version also existed) and were screwed into the block." Perhaps the A.E.H.S. should offer a review service to get the "translation bugs" out of new books of this kind. The same problem of irritating mis-translation occurs in the recently published Hispano-Suiza book.
My biggest criticism is directed at the size and reproduction quality of the engine photos and line drawings. The majority are too small, badly composed, fuzzy and/or unclear. What is really sad, is that the recently shot museum-engine photos (and there are many of these) are of no better quality than archival pictures from the 1920s! I also feel there are too many gratuitous photos of aircraft which, if omitted would have allowed space for some decent sized engine images.
At the back of the book there is an appendix of 36 tables which summarizes the characteristics of all the engines described in the book.
1) Beautifully presented book - big, glossy pages, hard cover, good binding (attributes not fully exploited by the production team).
2) Terrific round-up and clarification of a complex piece of aero-engine history.
1) Complete lack of colour graphics.
2) Poor quality engine photos.
3) Poor line drawings.
4) Irritating mis-translation.
Conclusion: An essential reference book.
Classic Racing Engines
Publishing, Somerset, UK, March 2001
Review by Doug Culy
Classic Racing Engines presents the fruits of many years of Ludvigsen's talking to people involved in racing engine development from 1913 to 1994, and packs stories of 50 engines into four pages on each, with many photos, cutaways and cross-sections. There are V- and H-16s, I-4s, as well as V- and I-8s, -6s, and V-12s. DOHC, SOHC, pushrod, and desmodromic engines are there. Ludvigsen gives for many of these the evolution of design and many, many details that uniquely define each manufacturer's approach to engine design. This is a very satisfying book, and a must for even aircraft engine enthusiasts.