BOEING 747

THE BOEING 747 offers subject matter of a scope commensurate with the vast size of the aeroplane itself. This book presents a wide-ranging account of what is surely one of the defining icons of the twentieth century’s march of progress.

THE BOEING 747 offers subject matter of a scope commensurate with the vast size of the aeroplane itself. This book presents a wide ranging account of what is surely one of the defining icons of the twentieth century's march of progress. Contents include: a brief history of the Boeing company; development of the aircraft and variants including some information on systems; two 'From the Flight Deck' accounts of specific flights (with Cathay into Kai Tak, and BA across the Atlantic); selected tales of disasters and near disasters; a chronology of the 747 programme to date; various lists of serial numbers; a listing of hull losses; and a one and a half page index. Pretty broad scope for 192 A4 size pages and it is perhaps not surprising that the depth of coverage is rather variable and, overall, somewhat less than exhaustive.

There are many black and white pictures (mostly worthwhile; a few from scratched negatives or with cluttered foregrounds that contribute rather less) and eight pages of more pleasing colour shots. Captions generally give potted employment histories of the pictured airframe.

There are line drawings, exploded views and diagrams, showing some of the systems and airframe components, as well as comparative side and plan views of the different models. These are mostly Boeing company drawings and, while some are a bit basic, others are rather cluttered with station numbers and esoteric nomenclature that may mean little to this book's likely readership they don't mean much to me, and I fly the thing!

As a story of the aircraft's trials and triumphs, the book is generally quite absorbing, though the text is, in places, rather packed with numbers, making it heavy going at times.

Apart from some admittedly obscure (to the layman) systems errors, I did find a number of rather more fundamental mistakes or generalisations. Amongst others: engines are numbered the wrong way; some power figures and engine model numbers are wrong; and it is incorrect to baldly state: 'Dutch roll [is] a roll from which there is little chance of recovery.' Tighter proof reading may also have avoided the credibility stretching last sentence of the book, suggesting: 'Perhaps, therefore, by the end of the next millennium we will not have seen the last of the superlative 'Jumbo'. Pardon? Few of these errors will be of major significance to aviation enthusiasts seeking general knowledge about the aeroplane and its history, but they will likely bring a frown to the face of an aviator.

Criticisms aside, there is plenty here of interest and, in background terms, education. Stories of company wrangling, engine problems and delays, struggles to achieve target dates, test flights and en route sectors read better than some of the technical matters and statistics. And I had no idea that the freighter model can carry 118 live cattle in (allegedly) leak proof containers though it's an experience I'm glad to forego, even if the capacity of the air conditioning system can be increased!

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Overall, this is a reasonably informative book which keen armchair airliner enthusiasts (whether pilots or not) might be pleased to add to their libraries. It cannot be said to be the definitive work on the Jumbo, and it does seem rather expensive to me, at nearly £30, particularly in view of the rather limited use of colour. Linton Chilcott.