Jan Van Der Veken

Whether or not you are an aviation enthusiast you can’t help being wowed by Jan Van Der Veken’s retro, futuristic style illustrations in this absorbing book that takes a look at the design (and much more) of planes from the tiny Wright Flyer of 1903 to the giant Airbus A-360-800 of 2005.

The first section – Aircraft Design, explores the principles of flight, the forces at work and the aircraft’s power and controls,

making reference to a number of specific planes as exemplars such as the Northrop YB35 Flying Wing.

Then follow, sections on Atmosphere and Weather, Communications and Navigation and The Future of Flight, which includes the prospect of the flying car.

If, like me you’ve ever sat in a plane and wondered about the flaps and ailerons on the wings that suddenly go down or up, there’s a whole spread on how each of these function complete with diagram.

I’ve been a lifelong flier, short and long haul, and have been a passenger in some small planes in weather such as dense fog, that caused me to be concerned we’d ever land safely anywhere when all we seemed to be doing was going round in circles using up precious fuel. I learned from this book that thanks to GPS, pilots can use global positioning equipment and/or radio beacons to find their way in difficult conditions.

With so much information packed between its covers, it’s pity there is no index. A great many pilots and designers are mentioned and it would have been good to have a roll call of them all; and perhaps the fact that the book’s creator is Belgian might explain the omission of such iconic planes as the Spitfire and the Harrier Jump Jet. Nonetheless this is a smashing book for older readers both at home and in school.

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