A history of aviation through books

Once upon a time, people dreamed of flying like birds. Let’s remember the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. When it comes to escaping the Labyrinth, the father and son make wings of feathers and wax inspired by birds. If the myth says that they gain height, alas, Icarus being too close to the sun, despite his father’s warnings, sees his wings melt. It ends up falling into the sea that then takes its name, the Icarian Sea.

It was not until the end of the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th century that aviation really took off: it was the rise of heavier air vehicles that preceded all the experiments carried out around of aerostats. Among the French, Clément Ader was one of the pioneers, with a successful take-off in 1890. But when we say take-off, you only have to think of a short period of suspension above the ground before falling back to earth. ..

Among the pioneers, one often mentions the name of the Wright brothers, of the Americans. While they were only making bicycles, they would gradually experiment with making gliders and then motor vehicles. The beginning of the 20th century was marked by an acceleration of inventions, which led to the creation of the first commercial companies. Success comes with the go: so think of the American Howard Hughes who greatly contributed to the development of TWA. A nicknamed Aviator distinguished himself as a film director and as a good business leader.

Flight history (618 pages, €50, 2012) by Bernard Marck

To have a broader and more intelligent view, we can turn to this beautiful work by Bernard Marck and published by Arthaud. Richly illustrated, this book will delight all aviation enthusiasts. Of course, there are big names that made the history of this amazing invention, but also the details of the models that marked the times.

Historian and aviation expert, Bernard Marck takes us from civil aviation to the aircraft’s military role, all the way through space adventure. There are great inventors and engineers behind every advancement, but also fearless pilots, who accept to ride unsafe machines. It is a story made up of dramas, but also records and exploits, with limits constantly being pushed back.

Flight history for dummies (352 pages, 2010, First)

The popular First edition collection offers a rich synthesis around aviation. Signed by Philippe Benhamou, engineer at the National Office for Aerospace Studies and Research (Onera), this book makes us discover airplanes that have left a mark on the collective imagination, from Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint-Louis to dangerous Spitfire and Messerschmitt.

Thus we pass, in a century, from the first flights of the Wright brothers, to the majestic flight of the A380 above the skies of Toulouse. Unfortunately, this air mastodon has not yet found a permanent place in the aircraft market. Almost giving the impression of being a game, like My Stake, flying a plane now seems very virtual and, in any case, far from the sensations that the first pilots must have experienced. Everything happens on screens that illuminate the cockpit, and we gradually trust our eyes, and more and more the technology, with piloting that is almost completely automated.

Shitty flight: the worst stories in aviation (234 pages, €15, 2016)

In a slightly different register, as the title suggests, one can leave the work of François Nénin. Then we discover completely confusing and often very funny stories. The author, himself a pilot and married to an air hostess, knows what he’s talking about. And one has the impression of being at the bar counter where the cream of all changes meet in the middle of air transport.

The anecdotes are more crazy than each other. How about this plane taking off for an eight hour flight with 400 people on board…but no toilet paper! Here’s a bit of rudeness, so to speak, in an environment that often seems controlled and highly standardized. After reading this little book, you will never get on a plane with the same confidence as before.

Illustration credits Pexels CC 0

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