Saturday, August 27, 2011

Empire of the Clouds : Book Review

This book was a joy for me to read from start to finish. It was a totally impulse purchase, and I would urge you not to be put off by the cover, which makes it look a bit like a Mills and Boon 60s novel... it is far from being that.

It's a non-fiction account of this country's aircraft industry since the second world war, which I know doesn't sound very interesting... but it really is.

Mostly it's interesting because the development of supersonic jet aircraft is fascinating, but also it's interesting to see just what a complete horlicks politicians made of our aircraft industry.

I must admit that I am very interested in aviation, mainly but not entirely military, so an insight into the development of some of my favourite planes was always going to be a winner with me, but actually the book is more about exposing the appalling lack of forethought and plain common sense on the part of our political and commercial leaders over the past half century.
If like me you have little regard for politicians, then I guarantee enjoyment from this book, as it confirms one's worst fears about this strange breed. They clearly have no idea what they're doing.

To summarise, at the end of WW2 this country had a fabulous and diverse aircraft industry, responsible in no small part for winning us the war, and looking ahead to a bright future of export potential and a warm fuzzy feeling of national security.

Today we have... not much to speak of. And the reason for that cannot in any way be laid at the door of the genius designers, the remarkable craftsmen or the brave test pilots involved. No. Politicians screwed it up. Looking back from this position of hindsight, it's easy to see the mistakes they made. Travel forward in time 50 years and look back at recent decision made about the Nimrod, the Eurofighter, the Harrier etc, I very much doubt today's shower will fare any better.

A book then, full of tales of individual bravery and foolishness, of fantastic and flawed designs, of genius and utter incompetence. Highly recommended.

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