Airplanes: The Life Story of a Technology

By Rouser, Kurt | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Airplanes: The Life Story of a Technology


Rouser, Kurt, Air & Space Power Journal


Airplanes: The Life Story of a Technology by Jeremy R. Kinney. Greenwood Press (http://www.green wood.com/greenwood_press.aspx) (published in association with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum), 88 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut 06881-5007, 2006, 184 pages, $45.00 (hardcover).

Targeting a wide audience, author Jeremy R. Kinney documents the evolution of aircraft and related technologies from their origins in the early eighteenth century to present-day advancements. He speaks with great authority as curator in the Aeronautics Division of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Kinney tells the story by intertwining threads of world economics, politics, and culture with those of aircraft system technologies (aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, and stability/control). The scope includes commercial, military, and general aviation with emphasis on development in the United States. Along the way, the book highlights assorted individuals and their significant contributions to the "technography" of the airplane. It also features a useful timeline, a brief glossary, an extensive bibliography, and a comprehensive index.

Airplanes will appeal to readers of varying levels of interest and subject-matter knowledge: the history buff, budding engineer, experienced pilot, aspiring entrepreneur, and more. It is an outgrowth of lectures and ideas presented by the author while serving as the Centennial of Flight lecturer at the University of Maryland at College Park in 2003. Kinney opens the book by explaining his intent simply to tell a story, the good and the bad, with minimal editorial comment. He also offers an elementary tutorial on airplanes and powered, controlled flight. The material does not require the reader to have an advanced degree; rather, it places various technical concepts in everyday, widely familiar contexts. In fact, those with years of advanced aeronautical education and experience should be forewarned not to overly scrutinize the book's technical explanations. …

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