Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 08:56 am GMT -7 Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 08:56 am GMT -7Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 08:56 am GMT -7
Tailless Aircraft book front cover

THE reference on flying wing airplanes. No other book comes close.





Flying wings (tailless airplanes) have fascinated me for a very long time. In fact, I am working right now on a tailless design. The wing is the only part of an airplane that is truly needed. Everything else plays a secondary role. So why not get rid of everything else?

The book’s primary author, Karl Nickel, worked with the famous Horten brothers for several years. The Hortens designed many well-known tailless airplanes. Dr. Nickel is clearly also an expert in full-size tailless designs. The second author, Michael Wohlfahrt, has extensive experience with tailless radio-controlled model gliders.

Despite the book’s focus being full-size flying wings, almost all of the book’s contents applies to model airplanes as well. A chapter in the book is aimed specifically at tailless model airplanes.

The original version of the book was written in German, which is the language spoken by the authors. It was subsequently translated into British English by Eric Brown, which at the time the book was translated held the world record for flying the largest number of different types of airplanes (487).

Tailless Aircraft book front cover

The Good

I had heard of the book’s excellent reputation long before I got my copy. Since the book is so well respected, I had assumed that it must be because of a rigorous mathematical treatment of the subject. I could not have been more wrong.

The real strength of the book lies in the author’s extensive practical design experience. They do a terrific job of clearing up common misconceptions about tailless airplanes. They also give many examples of problems that previous designs have run into and ways of avoiding the same mistakes.

The Bad

The book was typeset in what I consider an odd style. I have a hunch that the translator was merely trying to match the formatting style of the original German edition. It was a minor distraction.

The diagrams are somewhat crude. Again, they may have come directly from the German edition. I found them all easy to understand.

Over time a number of typographical errors have been discovered in the book. It is not clear to me if they were present in the original edition too. I am providing a PDF file below containing the currently known set. For a highly technical book of this size, I would probably rate this number of errors as average.

The authors try and start out slowly, but it would be a mistake to make this your first airplane design book. It would not be fair to expect this book to play that role, too.

Tailless Aircraft book back cover

The Ugly

I honestly could not find any serious problems with the book.

Others have criticized the book’s organization, but I liked it. The book’s chapters progress from a more theoretical discussion to the more practical aspects of tailless airplane design. This made a lot of sense to me and I found it easy to read and follow. Information on a given subject is spread throughout the book, but the index is good.

Others have also criticized the almost complete lack of coverage of powered tailless airplanes. This was understandable, since both author’s experience is almost exclusively with gliders. I would much rather have the authors stick to what they know.


I have never seen this book for sale anywhere for less than $100. This is the most expensive book I have ever bought, and it was worth every penny. How do you justify spending that much on a book? In my case, I gave it to myself as a Christmas present a few years ago. It turned out to be among the best Christmas presents I have ever received.

I read this book cover to cover. All 500 pages. It was not because I was trying to justify what I paid for it. The book is simply jam-packed full of information that I have not been able to find anywhere else. No other book comes close to its depth of information on this unusual but fascinating subject.

5 / 5 stars      

Tailless Aircraft book errata PDF

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