Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

RCL Career Resources Engineering and Technology: Aircraft Technologies and Aviation

RCL Aircraft Technologies and Aviation + Choice Titles

This is an interesting history of the people who designed Grumman aircraft. Aerospace consultant/writer Ciminera was hired by Grumman in 1959 and spent 50 years with the company. As he states, "I have attempted to tell a story about aircraft designers and their key teammates who created, and contributed to, so many innovative exciting aircraft and their variants." The 10-chapter work only contains a few pages on WW II designs. Chapters discuss the first jet planes; the Gulfstream Legacy aircraft; airborne early warning systems; the F-111B and the F-14; forward-swept wings and advanced concept systems; surveillance systems, including Pave Mover and Joint STARS; and electronic warfare systems. The last chapter deals with the author's reminiscences and assessments of the designers he worked with or observed. The book includes many small and poorly reproduced photographs. However, a useful 11 by 24 inch glossy foldout plots pictures of aircraft (and spacecraft and boats) by type versus years. This is a good contribution to the history of Grumman and aeronautical engineering in general. It also provides much insight into the essential role of the design professional. Summing Up: Recommended. All aeronautical history collections.

--A. M. Strauss Vanderbilt University


Outstanding Academic Title

Davies (formerly, US National Air and Space Museum) offers an updated sequel to his A History of the World's Airlines (1964). Realizing that his inaugural work has long been out of print, Davies summarizes airline history to about 1960 in an opening chapter before launching into a geographic flyby that succinctly surveys by region and country the development of air transport. He covers the people and companies involved; the changing types of aircraft; route development and the birth and growth of regional carriers; political and regulatory changes, including deregulation and airport growth; and sundry transitions including computer technology, safety improvements, and the new competitor--high speed rail. Although it lacks footnotes, this volume is solidly based on source material. Davies encountered this material, which is noted in the bibliography, during his own long career (virtually all the post-war years) researching civil aviation in Britain and the US. His travels to some 120 nations and knowledge of all the key players since WW II allow him to offer firsthand testimony and reasoned commentary on all he discusses.

Although comprehensive, this is not an airline-by-airline work on the model of M. J. Smith Jr.'s The Airline Encyclopedia, 1909-2000 (CH, Oct'03, 41-0703). Despite being oversized, with small font crowded into two columns on each page, this volume is both readable and well cross-referenced. Numerous small photographs, each relevant to the topic under review, enhance the text. Likewise, the maps and charts are simplified, appropriately located, and particularly helpful to readers trying to understand the development of various route systems. Covering airlines around the globe, this capstone work provides a valued tarmac for the airline story over the past half century or so. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Reference or circulating collections; lower-level undergraduates and above, and general readers.

--M. J. Smith Jr., Tusculum College

A historical survey of the participation and achievements of women in aviation from the 1940s to the present, this book is unique in its inclusion of flight attendants, workers in the aircraft industry, air traffic controllers, helicopter pilots, aerospace engineers, mechanics, and administrators in aviation, as well as the pilots and astronauts that are conventionally discussed. Approaching the subject decade by decade, Douglas (MIT Museum) and his colleagues devote nearly half the book to the tremendous impact WW II had on the entrance and acceptance of women into the world of flight. Douglas then moves into a broader discussion of aviation and gender issues, and shows how the second half of the century constantly reframed and reformulated this question, moving to the powerful and subtle social and political attitudes and stereotypes that threw up constant barriers for women in almost all flight-related occupations. Women of color faced even more obstacles, as the author carefully documents. Many photographs; brief index; appendixes that present the statistics behind the scholarship; careful documentation of the material presented; a personal epilogue that raises some interesting questions. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates.

--M. H. Chaplin, Wellesley College

The fruit of a NASA-sponsored multivolume project to document the history of aerodynamics in the US, this survey focuses on breakthrough developments in the field of aerodynamics, with an emphasis on contributions made by NASA and predecessor National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Historian Hansen covers such topics as the Wright Brothers; streamlining during the intervening years that produced the DC-3; the problem of compressibility and breaking the sound barrier; the "area rule" and the supersonic design revolution; and the rise and fall of the SST. He concludes with a chapter on the future of flight that examines the speculations of Theodore von Kármán and Dietrich Küchemann. Throughout, Hansen's emphasis is on individuals, and he celebrates the role of John Stack, Richard Whitcomb, Ezra Kotcher, and other talented aeronautical engineers. Nicely illustrated and gracefully written by one of the leading experts in the field, this volume is the finest introduction available to the revolutionary changes that took place in aeronautics during the 20th century. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels.

--W. M. Leary, University of Georgia

Although Wilbur and Orville are the bright stars, this is a story that encompasses the entire Wright family. The father, Bishop Milton Wright, and his daughter Katharine are among those who play prominent roles. Family life was important for the two famous brothers, who were never married. Gradually, they devoted their lives to the cause of flight with unexcelled determination. Their tribulations at Kitty Hawk are fairly well known, but there were many other episodes in their lives that were almost as significant. Crouch writes in a highly readable manner while giving attention to both the technical problems of flight and to human problems of two stubborn men who became so controversial among other aviation pioneers. Unattractive qualities in the personalities of the inventors are not neglected by Crouch. This is a well-balanced book that serves a valuable purpose. The research is based on papers in the Library of Congress and Wright State University Archives. The work is well illustrated and produced, with an extensive bibliography of secondary sources. Recommended for general readers as well as students of aviation. This review refers to an earlier edition.

--E. A. McKay, University of South Carolina at Aiken

Outstanding Academic Title

Broadnax provides a long-needed book. He has been a newscaster and journalist, and graduated with Class 45-3 as a Tuskegee Airman in March 1945. This was just too late for him to fly his P-51 in combat. However, he tells what it was like to be an African American man of courage and skill in the racist south and US Army of that time. It required much for one to put up with the indignities inflicted on those young men at that time. Likewise, it must have been gratifying to see their commanding officer, who had been a captain in a segregated army, retire little more than two decades later as a lieutenant-general in an integrated US Air Force. The Tuskegee Airmen helped edge their country a little closer to its self-proclaimed image, as did many other whites and African Americans. Broadnax paints a clear picture of how those young men earned their commissions as second lieutenants in the US Army Air Force of more than six decades ago. Their story is well worth reading now. Perhaps some readers will be inspired to edge us even closer to the dream. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates; two-year technical program students.

--M. Levinson, formerly, University of Washington

Outstanding Academic Title

Prolific author Dickson, noted for The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, ed. by S. McAfee (3rd ed., CH, Aug'09, 46-6531), among many other works, here provides the first lexicon of aerospace terms, slang, and acronyms since Origins of NASA Names by H. T. Wells, S. H. Whiteley, and C. E. Karegeannes was published by that agency in 1976. Though by no means comprehensive, this work translates the sometimes-strange words and phrases of the space and aviation community in a conversational tone that complements the broader foundation of space age language. Physically, it is presented as an alphabetically arranged dictionary that is based on the historic principles of the Oxford English Dictionary http://www.oed.com/ (CH, Sup'00, 37Sup-040) and Webster's Third New International Dictionary (2002; CD-ROM, CH, Dec'00, 38-1886). Words are reviewed according to term, etymology, first use, usage, extended usage, and sources. Entries range in length from a sentence to a half page. This is a unique resource for reference collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers.

--M. J. Smith Jr., Tusculum College

This volume offers an overview of the security implications of such rapidly evolving technologies as space access, drones and robots, directed energy weapons, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. The author, a research fellow with the University of Manitoba's Centre for Defence and Security Studies, has clear expertise in the topic. Each of the individual chapters provides a detailed analysis sourced with numerous endnotes. The volume also includes several appendixes and a lengthy bibliography listing both primary and secondary sources. While the work is targeted, at least in part, to general readers, the dense, technical nature of the subject matter makes the book much more useful for researchers and specialists. It will be a useful addition to science, technology, and national security-focused collections. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals/practitioners.

--D. Durant, East Carolina University

Outstanding Academic Title

The arrival of the centennial of the Wright Brothers' first flight in 1903 will certainly trigger a wave of commemorative books. This book, produced in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, is surely a standout. Its design and execution are stunning: airbrushed illustrations are blended with text and other images; color is used liberally; pictures of fascinating artifacts are integrated with the narrative; and the degree of coverage is impressive. Grant has written other books on technology and contemporary politics; knowledgeable curators from the National Air and Space Museum have added their expertise, making this a particularly authoritative volume. Four major sections carry the story of winged flight from its origins through WW II; the next two sections discuss postwar military aviation and space exploration; and a thoughtful, interpretive section entitled "Shrinking World" concludes the volume. Although the American aviation experience is often in the foreground, one of the many merits of this book is its attention to significant trends and technologies as legacies from other countries. The final section includes informed commentary on such issues as hijacking and terrorism as well as the proliferation of general aviation and light planes. Informative, illustrated glossary. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through graduate students; two-year technical program students. This review refers to an earlier edition.

--R. E. Bilstein, emeritus, University of Houston--Clear Lake

Anderson's writing will provide the specialist in the prehistory and early history of flight with a few new insights; but this reviewer believes that the true audience for the book will be the educated layperson willing to read a work that requires diligent effort. Such a person will learn much about the title, subject, and people who made flight happen as well as about the process of invention, something that rarely proceeds with linear smoothness. "Eureka" experiences may occur in science or mathematics but rarely in technological matters where persistence and perspiration are the norm for achieving success. Inventing Flight can be recommended to all, specialist scholar or inquisitive layperson, interested in how the airplane became a reality in the early 20th century after millennia of dreams. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels.

--M. Levinson, formerly, University of Washington

Given the ongoing debate on the use of military drones, this introductory work in the field of military robotics, part of the "Contemporary World Issues" series, is quite timely. As Springer (Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base) explains, military robots perform such functions as intelligence-gathering, cargo transportation, serving as defense weapons, and directly attacking the enemy. The initial section, "Background and History," features a discussion on defining robots and drones. The second section, "Problems and Controversies," includes subsections titled "Special Vulnerabilities of Robotic Systems," "Autonomous Robots and Lethal Force," and "Robots and the Laws of War." The section "Worldwide Perspective" covers the development and use of drones by other countries including Russia, China, and Britain. Other sections include a 24-page chronology; a set of 19 profiles on the leading scientists and important political leaders involved in drones and robotics; and a short directory of the important organizations involved in the development of the technology. The "Data and Documents" section provides information on 18 specific types of military robots (e.g., Global Hawk, Predator, Talon) and a selection of important documents in the field. The volume concludes with a useful, 30-page annotated bibliography of print and nonprint resources. Providing a basic overview, this easy-to-use handbook is a good introduction to the topic. Springer previously wrote America's Captives: Treatment of POWs from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (CH, Sep'10, 48-0485). Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers.

--B. P. Tolppanen, Eastern Illinois University

In this standard reference work on the US Navy (16th ed., CH, Jun'97, 34-5450), naval analyst and consultant Polmar continues his editorship, which began with the 11th edition published in 1978. As in previous editions, Polmar begins with an introductory "state of the fleet" essay. This outlines the condition of the fleet and presents his view of the war-fighting proficiency of the US Navy. He describes six current threats to the navy: unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber attack, non-nuclear submarines, mines, lack of sea combat experience, and cruise missiles. Succeeding chapters provide detailed information on ships, aircraft, weapon/electronic systems, the Coast Guard, NOAA, and miscellaneous ships/craft. Five appendixes are included, as are general and ship indexes. Profusely illustrated with photographs, drawings, and tables, this work is a visual tour de force that will please both naval professionals and interested readers. The annual IHS Jane's Fighting Ships, edited by S. Saunders (1994-95 CD-ROM, CH, Dec'95, 33-1921), and The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World (16th ed., 2013; 2005-06, CH, Sep'05, 43-0007) have chapters on the US Navy; however; Polmar's book is the flagship upon which any serious study of the US Navy must embark. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers.

--H. N. Boyer, independent scholar

This timely, revealing book describes current problems in the US aviation system, their causes, unsuccessful attempted fixes, and more recommended fixes. The authors, a former senior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official and a former senior RAND Corporation researcher, are both currently affiliated with George Mason University. The book contains seven chapters (125 pages) written for general readers and eight appendixes (97 pages) for more technical readers. The first four chapters may be the most successful, presenting fascinating descriptions of how and why typical flights are often delayed or cancelled, and how the unfortunate traveler is often treated. ("Passengers who act like sheep will be treated like sheep.") Data on delays and cancellations at all major US airports and some European airports are provided. Chapters 5-6 give brief but compelling descriptions of the stakeholders in the system (airlines, airports, the FAA, air traffic controllers, plane and other equipment manufacturers), and why more progress has not been made. The controllers are the primary villains in this rendition. The last chapter's recommendations for solutions have a familiar ring but will be interesting for those not already initiated into this frustrating area. Excellent bibliography and index. Summing Up: Recommended. All collections.

--D. Brand, formerly, Harvard University

This book, part of the "Library of Flight" series, deals with the design, propulsion, structures, and control of more than 100 unmanned aircraft for a variety of missions.  Gundlach and Foch, accomplished senior aeronautical engineers, present the material from an aircraft design and engineering perspective.  For many years, the most intensive, innovative research and development on unmanned aircraft, or drones, was performed at the Vehicle Research Section of the Naval Research Laboratory.  This work provides a historical and engineering record of that activity from 1975 to 2012.  It includes sea-launched vehicles with unfolded wings; air-launched, fixed-wing aircraft; and ground-launched, fixed-wing planes.  A chapter on research vehicles reviews many innovative concepts, including the shear wing, the variable-span or hinged wing, semi-rigid wings, the skew wing, and the ram wing (inflatable wing).  The chapter on micro air vehicles also involves many innovative concepts.  Chapters on utility aircraft, vertical takeoff and landing, planetary flight, and manned aircraft are well done.  Useful for aerospace engineers and students in this area as well as readers interested in unmanned vehicles. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; two-year technical program students.

--A. M. Strauss, Vanderbilt University

There have been so many histories of the Wright brothers that one more might seem redundant. But this study, as the subtitle notes, is highly specialized in its analysis of the process by which the Wrights achieved their remarkable success. Although many studies of the Wrights have commented on their step-by-step procedure, none has really dissected their process in the manner followed by Jakab. He details the Wrights' ability to analyze accepted formulae for wing design, to compare them against simple, but ingenious test equipment, and to derive true values that they incorporated into their designs. Much of the Wrights' success seemed to stem from innate curiosity, good sense, and the ability to visualize the application of scientific data in practical engineering. Jakab is always careful to show how the Wrights also considered test results during each step of their experimental flights, a habit that many contemporaries seemed to forego. Carefully written and reasonably argued, Jakab's book is valuable as a study of the origins of powered flight and as a case study of early 20th-century invention. Graduate readership. This review refers to an earlier edition.

--R. E. Bilstein, University of Houston--Clear Lake

The US space shuttle, one of the most complex machines ever built, ferried 355 astronauts into low Earth orbit during 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. Two of the orbiters were lost, Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003, and this book considers the era from mission STS-26 (post-Challenger accident) to the last mission, STS-135, in 2011. Rather than provide an exhaustive history, journalist/author Houston focuses on themes and makes extensive (and effective) use of oral histories provided by astronauts and others. Perhaps the two major accomplishments of the space shuttle were the launch and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope (6 missions) and the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS; 37 missions). The space shuttle flights to the former Russian space station Mir are discussed as a precursor to the ISS. Columbia (STS-107) was lost during its reentry into the atmosphere due to the shedding of tiles from the undersurface of the orbiter during launch, and this problem was observed even early in the shuttle program. The book concludes with laments about the future of the US space program. Thirty-four interesting photographs illustrate the text. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic and general space history collections.

--J. Z. Kiss, University of Mississippi