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America’s Round-Engine Airliners

America’s Round-Engine Airliners Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review April 2019 Title America’s Round-Engine Airliners
Author Craig Kodera, William Pearce Publisher Specialty Press
Published 2019 ISBN 9781580072649
Format 300 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $46.95

Review

Round in cross-section, reliable, reciprocating radial engines literally propelled American air travel from frail, fabric-and-wood airframes to fast, safe, all-metal designs – cementing U.S. leadership in the field.

That's the premise of America's Round-Engine Airliners from Specialty Press.

The subtitle – "Airframes & Powerplants in the Golden Age of Aviation" – tells it all. Authors Craig Kodera and William Pearce traverse the terrific, transitional tale in nine picture-packed chapters:

  • From Inline to Round
  • One Wing, Two Engines, All Metal
  • Presenting the Ship as an Airplane
  • Landplanes Become Viable Contenders
  • Expanding the Envelope
  • Some Serious Air Transports
  • Shrinking the Envelope
  • The Big Time
  • Twilight of the Goddesses

Call this compendium "multi-dimensional": part aerodynamic, part engineering, part technical, part mechanical, even part cultural – but all informative and entirely entertaining.

Each chapter divides into Kodera's "Getting There By Air" and Pearce's "Hardware on the Wing" sections. You'll easily see why.

Hundreds of illustrations – color and B&W shots, archival images, drawings, close-ups, exploded views, memorabilia, and more – season the saga. Sidebars and explanatory captions further complement commentary. And a selected bibliography and index complete contents.

It's full of fascinating facts, too. Thanks to revolutionary American designs like Douglas' DC-3, for instance, total U.S. airline passengers "increased nearly ninefold, to more than 4 million" between 1934 and 1940 – just six years.

Kodera and Pearce's splendid study nicely surveys the maturation of American commercial flight. And it's a cool, colorful introduction to the roots of today's international air-transportation system.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But were engine nacelles really "rather perpendicular to the swept leading edge" of the DC-4E wing?

With thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy.

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