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The Airplane by Jay Spenser
The Airplane:
How Ideas Gave Us Wings

Smithsonian Books, HarperCollins

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press release (PDF)
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The Airplane: How Ideas Gave Us Wings

Who were aviation’s dreamers and from where did they draw their inspiration?  What lessons did inventors learn from birds, insects, marine mammals, and fish that helped us to fly? How did the bicycle lead to the airplane, and hot water heaters to metal fuselages?  And who figured out how to fly without seeing the ground, setting the stage for scheduled airline services in all weather conditions?

The Airplane: How Ideas Gave Us Wings answers these questions and more as it traces the grand quest to realize humankind’s most ancient dream. Following the flow of simple yet powerful ideas, I introduce readers to pioneers across continents and centuries, shed new light on their contributions, and evoke those key moments in history as, piece by piece, human beings like you and me solved aviation’s puzzles.

Fast paced and infused with the thrill of the hunt, The Airplane places us at the elbow of flight’s pioneers to share in their “aha” moments as they laid the keel of a transformative invention, sent it into the blue, and ultimately created ultra-safe jetliners that today can take hundreds of people almost halfway around the world in a single day.

Sure to please the lay reader and buff alike, The Airplane includes a chapter on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner -- the latest expression of human thinking in the airplane’s most significant role -- and concludes with speculations about the future of flight including alternative airliner designs and biofuels.

Here at last is a book that makes flying fun again!

More reviews:

“Jay Spenser has brilliantly demonstrated his mastery of aviation history.”
—Dr. F. Robert van der Linden, Chairman, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

“A satisfying journey guided by an able pilot.”
—Kirkus Reviews (09/15/08)

“Spenser’s book stands as a smart, and occasionally wonkish, history of a thrilling machine all too often taken for granted.”
—Publishers Weekly (9/22/08)

“Anyone interested in airplanes … will find this book a valuable addition to his or her library.”
—Dr. John Anderson, Professor Emeritus, Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland

“A knowledgeable, accessible history of heavier-than-air flight.”
—Kirkus Reviews (09/15/08)

“Brings aviation history alive for new generations of readers.”
—Dan Hagedorn, Senior Curator, Museum of Flight

“An insightful and innovative approach to some of the most intriguing questions in aviation.”
—Dr. F. Robert van der Linden, Chairman, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

“The Airplane well conveys Spenser’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for his subject.”
—Booklist (11/21/08)

“A new character and a new engineering problem on every other page, each served with delight in [the] ideas that sent humanity aloft.”
—Seattle Times (11/13/08)

“Offers us a fascinating way to think about … the modern airplane.”
—Dr. Deborah Douglas, Curator, Science and Technology, MIT Museum

“Coherent and highly readable….”
—Dr. F. Robert van der Linden, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

“A detailed but clear account of how humans solved the puzzle of air travel.”
—Kirkus Reviews (09/15/08)

“Spenser’s book is worthy of addition to public, academic, and possibly high school libraries.”
—Library Journal (10/15/08)

“Provides a clear explanation of complex aeronautical technology.”
—Dr. F. Robert van der Linden, Chairman, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

“Jay Spenser tells the fascinating story of the development of heavier-than-air flight in an easy-to-read conversational style.”
—Dr. John Anderson, Professor Emeritus, Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland

“Reading Jay Spenser’s wonderful contribution to aviation history is akin to having a pleasant conversation over coffee….”
—Dan Hagedorn, Senior Curator, Museum of Flight

“This is written like an episode of the old TV show Connections, and is just as entertaining.”
—Sacramento Book Review

 




“The author
provides compelling mini-biographies of various dreamy inventors and daring pilots.”

Kirkus Reviews


“A book that soars….”
Seattle Times


“On point and engrossing….”

  Library Journal

“A must-read for aviation buffs.”
  Maj. Gen. Bill Anders, USAF (ret.), former Apollo 8 astronaut

 

 
Words on Wings