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AIRLIFE'S WORLD AIRCRAFT

PUBLISHED: 01:00 15 June 2001 | UPDATED: 13:44 10 October 2012

BACK IN THE early 1950s Macdonald published the first edition of a book entitled The Aircraft of the World, written by the late Bill Green and Gerald Pollinger.

BACK IN THE early 1950s Macdonald published the first edition of a book entitled The Aircraft of the World, written by the late Bill Green and Gerald Pollinger. To a then eight-year-old, with a cover price long forgotten but which would have represented many months' pocket money, it was as unattainable as the Holy Grail. Publication of its second edition coincided with my tenth birthday, and someone (the kindly uncle who first introduced me to aviation and aeromodelling is prime suspect) bought me the copy that I have before me as I write. Aspiring to include every active aircraft type then extant, it has proved an enduring source of information and entertainment. Nearly half-a-century on, rare indeed is the week when I don't pluck its faded blue spine from the shelf.

Since then there has never been a single-source replacement for 'Green and Pollinger', not even the annual Jane's, which documents only those aircraft in current or very recent production. But there is now. Rod Simpson, author of the inestimable Airlife's General Aviation (and new Chairman of that publishing company) has produced this magnum opus, subtitled 'The Complete Reference to Civil, Military and Light Aircraft'.

In his Introduction the author sets out his aim to include every commercially produced, fixed- or rotary-wing, powered aircraft of which at least one example is known to exist in airworthy condition or under active restoration to fly. And that includes homebuilts that have been offered in plan or kit form and built (or likely to be) in significant numbers. Phew! Just think of the task!

The contents are arranged alphabetically by manufacturer regardless of aircraft type--by far the best choice for a book such as this. Sensibly, out-of-production types are listed under the name of their original manufacturer, and current aircraft under the present builder (with cross-references in the Index), so you'll find the Ercoupe under Erco and F-16 under Lockheed Martin, and none of that 'BAE Systems Vampire' or 'Boeing DC-3' nonsense. Each of the 1,100 aircraft featured gets a brief development history, details of significant sub-types, production totals and, where appropriate, number thought still be to extant, followed by a specifications table for a specific variant. The layout is two-column, typically two aircraft to a page.

Of more than 1,300 photographs, the majority are static ground shots. I'd like to have seen more air-to-airs or at least ground-to-airs, and the inclusion of the registration/serial number of each aircraft depicted seems superfluous in a book such as this. More than a few of the illustrations suffer from noses or tails bleeding off the edges of pages. Presumably for layout considerations, some relatively obscure types (Johnson Rocket, Jurca Gnatsum, Timm Tutor) warrant half-page pictures, while others such as Concorde, F/A-18 and MiG-29 get just a couple of column inches.

Admirer though I have long been of Rod Simpson's scholarship, I was sceptical that any book of this kind could be truly comprehensive, and set about my let's-see-if-I-can-trip-him-up task with relish. Oddball French lightplanes are always a good test. How about the Gatard Stratoplan Poussin or Legrand-Simon L.S.60, both glimpsed in dusty hangars half a lifetime ago? They're here. The elegant 1936 Pasped Skylark, a favourite of mine from Green and Pollinger? Present. Carl Mortensen's Evangel II STOL utility craft, designed to fly missionary operations in South America? At your service, Lord.

And so it went. I have no doubt that there are airworthy aircraft in existence that aren't included here, but it would take more time that I have to pinpoint them. And for every one you might find wanting, I'll bet there are a dozen featured here that you've never heard of.

I've no idea what £75 represents in terms of 21st century small boys' pocket money or uncles' bi

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