If you had to pick what you believed were the 25 most influential aircraft of all time, could you do it? Could you limit it to just 25? Are there 25?
For that matter, what you believe to be influential might be vastly different from a list compiled by Bill Lear or Bill Boeing.
A few weeks ago in my mail was a book titled, “The 25 Most Influential Aircraft of All Time.” The co-authors are none other than retired USAF Colonel Walter J. Boyne, former director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and Philip Handleman, president of Handleman Filmworks, an Emmy-winning independent production company. Between the two, they’ve written more than 70 aviation-themed books.
So yeah, like all pilots, they have an opinion on what constitutes an influential aircraft.
I haven’t yet completed the book, but I have read several of the chapters, including those about the Wright Flyer, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and the Piper Cub.
Most refreshingly, the chapters are a mix of history and personal connections, experiences, and opinion.
I had forgotten the “Spirit of St. Louis would be designed and built at the promised combination of at-cost price ($10,580) and breakneck speed (60 days).” 60 DAYS… are you kidding?
To be honest, as great as the chapters are, I think some of the best commentary belongs to the authors of the Preface (William Lloyd Stearman), the Foreward (Burt Rutan) and the Introduction (Norman R. Augustine).
Along the same lines of a Saturday morning hangar flying session, Stearman, Rutan and Augustine each take the opportunity to ask why didn’t the authors include [fill in the blank].
Most enjoyable to me was Rutan’s comment, “I will state my viewpoints on only the listed airplanes that I am familiar with. I will also candidly state where I disagree with the selection. I am not known to by shy, so I will risk not being asked for an opinion again.”
And with that, Rutan is given 10 pages for his comments on nine of the 25 included aircraft, as well as “What is missing from the list?”
Stearman’s and Augustine’s comments are no less insightful and entertaining.
The hardback copy I have has a cover price of $35 but I found it on Amazon for $28.84. The book’s release date is March 1, 2018.
This book will lead to many wonderful discussions that will include comments such as, “Are you crazy?” and “How could they not include the …”
I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have.