Geez, that’s a harsh title. Good news: once I got past the terrible title, I found lots to like about this book.
First you need to know that there are two versions of this book. As far as I can tell, both contain the same text and pictures. One is a regular-sized book, a little smaller than a regular size sheet of paper. I saw it in a local bookstore once. The other is the “mini me” version, measuring only about 5×7 inches (12×17 cm). The larger version has a Gee Bee racer on its cover.
Which one do I recommend? I bought the small version, and I’m very happy with it. The pictures are big enough for me. If you are looking for a coffee table book, or are buying the book for a child, or have bad eyesight, then I suppose the larger format version would be a better choice.
150 aircraft are profiled, grouped into five semi-helpful sections with names such as “Bogus Concepts”. Almost all of the are airplanes, with some helicopters thrown in. Each aircraft gets at least one page of text, one large picture (or color drawing) with several captions, and a basic specifications box. There’s usually a smaller second picture added. The captions contain many entertaining tidbits of trivia on each aircraft.
I did not fail to be entertained by the book. The author (Jim Winchester) clearly loves aviation and did an excellent job researching each aircraft. There is much food for thought in the book. I did not fact check the information, but it all sounded plausible to me.
Room for Improvement
The book is clearly aimed at a non-technical audience. For that audience, there is very little that I can find to fault the book. The pictures look good and the text is well-written and to the point. Many of the pictures are in black and white, but that is to be expected with the historical nature of many of the aircraft.
As a model airplane designer, the pictures don’t contain enough information to build a scale model. Most of them are shot from the side, giving very little information on what the wings really look like.
I was disappointed that some perennial “bad” airplane designs were not included. For example, a favorite of mine, the Custer Channel Wing, is missing.
The Best News
The best news is that there are at least a dozen copies on sale at Amazon for $2 or less. I call that a bargain. All of the printed editions are hardcover, so chances are that any used copy will be in good enough condition to enjoy.
Given the very low price, I strongly recommend this book. It’s a great source of interesting ideas, even if they never got the bugs ironed out of these aircraft. Many of these aircraft would make excellent scale subjects, though you would have to augment the information contained in the book with additional research.
Nevertheless, paging through it is a lot of fun, and it never fails to get me thinking about ideas to try out…