Early French Aviation 1905 - 1930

Published: January 27th, 2020     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: Graham M. Simons
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 978-1-52-675874-3
Price: $24.95
Product provided by: Casemate Publishing

Graham M. Simons is an English professional aviation writer, publisher and historian. Graham M Simons is one of the founders of the world famous aviation museum at Duxford near Cambridge. His interest in aviation was piqued watching the making of the 'Battle of Britain' film and from the days when you could go 'aircraft spotting' at London Heathrow and local airports. Graham's engineering background led him to membership of a number of aviation societies, including sitting on the British Aviation Preservation Council. He was responsible for overseeing the restoration of a De Havilland DH89 Dragon Rapide airliner to flying condition and placing this aircraft - with official approval -- in the colors and markings of the first aircraft of what was then the Kings Flight. It was during this period that he was contacted by Ian Allen Ltd to write the first ever history of this classic De Havilland type. Additional titles rapidly followed and with a growing number of contacts in both the military and airliners, Graham turned professional in 1987, combining his love of writing with his skills in production to create and publish aviation histories. Graham lives near Peterborough.

Pen & Sword's latest book in the Images of Aviation series is a square back soft cover includes 128 gloss paper pages. The cover large photograph of pioneering French aviator Louis Paulhan appears on page 69 in this book with a full description. Louis Paulhan's second biplane was built in association with Henri Fabre and flew in March 1911 at St. Cyr. I counted 228 black and white period photographs. There are no color photos, illustrations, maps, or tables.

Early French aviation was well covered by the media, however, many of the articles and photographs were filed away and never widely seen. Graham Simons managed to discover around 500 photographs secured in a forgotten album and the result is this tome. Most of the photographs are presented here probably for the first time ever, and most certainly for the first time in over a century. Graham also weaves a very detailed narrative that supports the photograph lineup, each supported by detailed captions. The photographs cover aeroplanes from 1905 to 1930, skipping airplanes of the Great War almost entirely. The sections include:

  • Introduction [Page 5]
  • Expositions [Page 25]
  • Lighter-Than-Air...
  • The Pioneers [Page 39]
  • Airfields
  • Hydro Avions [Page 107]
  • Post War Years [Page 123]

There is no shortage of interesting photographs and their lengthy captions. I found the two photographs on Page 74 quite interesting. Based on the 1911 patents of Alphonse Papin and Didier Rouilly, this vehicle was essentially the first turbo-jet powered Gyroptere (or monocopter). Think of it as a maple seed. The pilot sat it the center mass while one hollow blade whirled around to provide lift. The first attempt at 'flight' was achieved on March 31, 1915 on Lake Cercey. The design specified a requirement of a 100hp engine and the attempt was made with an 80hp Le Rhone. As radical at it seems, monocopters have continued to be studied throughout the years, most recently as a remotely piloted vehicle in 2006.

Graham Simons delivers a stunning study in early French aviation design with a plethora of aircraft. I read this book over a couple of nights, but I have gone back to it several times since as I kept thinking and wondering about the amazing designs presented. I was suitably impressed by the photographs included and am anxiously awaiting volume 2.

My thanks to Pen & Sword, Casemate Publishing, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

  • Back Cover
    Back Cover
  • Page 5
    Page 5
  • Page 25
    Page 25
  • Page 39
    Page 39
  • Page 107
    Page 107
  • Page 123
    Page 123

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