Book Reviews 7
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.
Wolseley Radial Aero Engines
Soft Cover, 25 x 17cm, 192 pages
Recommended Retail Price £18.99
Many illustrations (all b&w)
Review by Jerry Wells
This book gets off to a bad start with me because of the title—not only is it long-winded but it is also prejudicial. If the author feels that the project by Lord Nuffield (actual name, William Richard Morris) to produce aero-engines was thwarted, then surely it is up to him to put his case in the text of the book and enunciate his conclusions at the end, leaving the reader to make his own final judgment on the matter. As it is, the author's opinion is telegraphed on the cover and all the title pages. An American book I purchased a few years ago called, The History of Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Development in the U.S. - A Tradition of Excellence has the same problem.
Nonetheless, Wolseley Radial Aero Engines is a welcome addition to the aero-engine literature and it gives great detail as to the origins, development and production of engines by a niche manufacturer.
Preceding Chapter 1 is a three page chronological list giving brief details of the history of the Wolseley name from 1837 to 1938 thus allowing the reader to obtain an overview of the story, if he so desires.
Chapter 1 covers the history of the Wolseley Company from its origins in Australia to motor car production in England, including aero-engine manufacture before and during WW1. The Company went bankrupt in 1926 and was purchased by Lord Nuffield to prevent it falling into the hands of foreigners.
Chapter 2 describes how Lord Nuffield decided to use the Wolseley Motors concern to produce a range of radial engines for the private aviation market which he judged to be something that would develop strongly in the 1930s. This chapter also contains an excellent section giving technical description, drawings and photos of all the Wolseley aero-engines.
Chapter 4 is pivotal to the story of Wolseley aero-engines. It is titled, "The Market for Wolseley Aero Engines" and the situation is summed up by Seymour's comment on page 76, "The opportunity to sell aircraft engines in quantity for privately owned aircraft which Lord Nuffield had anticipated in 1929 had not, therefore, materialized … so Wolseley found it very difficult to find a market for its aero-engines ... ,etc."
Having got himself into this situation, Lord Nuffield tried to remedy matters a) by selling his engines to the military and b) by selling the whole factory to the government. The Wolseley engines, which were small capacity, low horsepower, utterly conventional radials, had nothing to offer the R.A.F. and, quite understandably, were rejected by the Air Ministry. This soured Lord Nuffield's relationship with the Air Ministry and led to his exclusion from the important Shadow Factory scheme.
Chapter 6 recounts the story of how a pre-war proposal to fit Wolseley radial engines to the Airspeed "Oxford" training aircraft came to nothing due to more disagreement between the egregious baron and the government. He had learned nothing from past experience. This was the end of Wolseley Aero Engines Ltd.
The remaining four chapters deal with aspects that are somewhat tangential to the subject of this book, including the establishment of the Castle Bromwich "Spitfire" factory near Birmingham in 1938. Lord Nuffield was invited by Air Minister Kingsley Wood to manage this on behalf of the government. However, Lord Beaverbrook, just three days after his appointment as Minister of Aircraft Production, sacked him in May, 1940!
A number of Appendices complete this book. These cover all sorts of interesting aspects such as personality profiles, engine statistics, test flight data, etc.
Wolseley Radial Aero Engines is a nice-sized book, printed on good quality paper and very well illustrated. I didn't like the small, spidery text style; sure, it's readable but very few people would find it easy reading and what is worse is that the quotations (which are extensive) are printed in a text size which is about half that of the (already small) main text. What's wrong with quotation marks? This is just ridiculous computer gimmickry. The script is also unnecessarily cramped and run together. Publishers should realize that books such as this are discretionary reading; they are not technical course books. If they are not easy to read, people just won't bother - hence the popularity of TV! I note the advertising "blurb" on the back cover is printed (surprise, surprise!) in large, bold text!
In conclusion, faults aside, this little book is an essential addition to the aero-engine enthusiast's library and the author is to be congratulated on his efforts to record and publish this piece of history.
Hard Cover with Dust Jacket, 8.5 x 11.5, 112 pages
List Price US $49.95
Approximately 84 color and 46 b/w images
Review by Allan McGuinness
If ever there was a book with a misleading title this is it. Sure it is a lovely coffee table book. Large format, hard cover, full colour, "Treasures of the Internal Combustion Century" is its secondary title. Be in for a surprise. The "treasures" are an example of almost every important engine that provided the necessary technical advances that prepared the way for the 20th century to be called the "internal combustion century". Over half the book is devoted to engines made in the 19th century, and not only do we get them in full colour we are also told how they work with explanatory sectional drawings of the early slide valves and descriptions of their ignition systems. Added to this are comments on the designers, the manufacturers and their future place in the scheme of engine production. We are told where they are and they are not all American, they are French, German and English before we get to the American ones. Even then we get East coast, West coast and the ones in between.
I was fascinated by the very early technology and found the later, industrial and marine engines just as interesting because they show advances and not just 'coffee table' images. Overall, what a pleasant surprise and not expensive either.
Hardback, 260mm x 260mm x 20mm, 164 pages
Recommended Retail Price: $29.95
Photos, some color
Reviewed by Doug Culy
Mark Sullivan’s book on P&WA has many pictures not seen before in books on this great engine manufacturer. It focuses on the last 50 years of the company’s 85-plus-year history, and brings the reader right up to 2008. The first four chapters deal with the piston engine era, with the next eleven chapters covering jets, rockets, etc. No specific information on piston engine development, but, some new insights on the big commercial fan engine programs of the current era. Included is a timeline from August 1925 to February 2008 that has many useful dates.
The author was Director of Media Relations for P&WA in recent years, and compiled this book largely from the archives of the company, which include the company’s monthly newspaper/newsletter, press releases, and some magazine articles. The author cites about a dozen independent books on P&W people and engines. Canadian P&W is sufficiently covered, but the reader is referred to CP&W’s own history for all details, which is offered by a Canadian publisher. The rocket engines are covered just enough to make the reader hungry for more detail, but that is better than not at all.
This is not a technically-oriented book, such as The Engines of Pratt & Whitney (also recently published) and is smaller, having only 164 pages. Sullivan’s time at P&WA began in 1980 and ended in 2007 or 08, while Jack Connors’, the author of The Engines of Pratt & Whitney joined the company in 1948 and retired around 1990.
However, this reviewer found much new information, one surprising revelation, and several hoped-for revelations, making Dependable Engines a valuable complement to all previous books on the company. Its printing and binding are well done.