ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF CIVIL AIRCRAFT

AT FIRST SIGHT this is a most impressive book, a full six centimetres thick and weighing more than half a stone. But I very soon found that it was also a most disappointing book.

AT FIRST SIGHT this is a most impressive book, a full six centimetres thick and weighing more than half a stone. It claims to be 'a meticulously researched and detailed account of every significant civil aircraft ever built... lucid, clear and accessible throughout'. This blurb impressed me sufficiently to induce me to purchase a copy for myself. I fondly hoped it would make a useful addition to my aviation reference library. But I very soon found that it was also a most disappointing book. The first aircraft I wanted to look up was the Junkers Ju 52/3m. It appears only once, on page 552, where it is described as having 'rivalled the Douglas DC 3 as the most significant civil passenger aeroplane of the 1930s' and that is all. No photo, no further text, no specification, nothing. The Bristol Brabazon was also significant in its own right, and is similarly neglected, as are the Avro Tudor, Embraer Brasilia and ERJ 135/145, Beech Bonanza, all the Grumman American singles, the Rockwell 112 and 114, the entire Auster, Beagle, Miles and Mooney ranges of aircraft, the Piper Tomahawk and an endless list of other omissions. Presumably we must now regard all of these as being 'insignificant' civil aircraft.

In contrast, for some reason best known to the compilers, the book includes such oddball 'civil' aeroplanes as the RFB Fantrainer, Boeing KC 97, Dornier Do 18 and Do 24 and several other essentially military types. The sequence of entries is rigidly alphabetical and consequently awful. One 'Chapter' for example, includes such a logical and coherent selection of aeroplanes as Reno Formula One racers, the Saab 340 and 2000, Rockwell Sabreliner, Shorts 330/360 and the pre WW2 C class Empire Flying Boats. The index could have been made a lot more helpful than it is, in pointing the reader towards the required reference. Once you get there, what you often find is text and data that is obviously years old, reprinted from some earlier publications. In many places blatant and none too successful attempts have been made to bring some of the textual matter up to date. This is certainly not the 'highly authoritative guide' that it pretends, on its elegantly presented dust cover. James Allan.