WIDE-BODY by Clive Irving


The Triumph of the 747
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 The art of designing a passenger plane now requires striking a fine balance among such factors as fuel efficiency, payload, range, and speed. As this engrossing saga of how Boeing developed its breakthrough 747 makes clear, however, the task was appreciably more difficult--and risky--less than a generation ago. Drawing on what appears to be unrestricted access to corporate records and extensive interviews, Irving (ed., CondÇ Nast Traveler; Comrades, 1986, etc.) provides a detailed account of what it took to get the jumbo jet that democratized travel from the drawing board into the air. While his story includes more particulars on the program's technical aspects than some readers may wish to absorb, the material covering aerodynamics, engine thrust, weight limits, and allied elements of design is readily accessible--and a cast of compelling characters gives the tale a variety of rooting interests. For openers, there's a talented crew of engineers and scientists backed by a buttoned-down CEO willing to wager the company itself in a high-stakes gamble to make their visionary ambitions a commercial reality. On hand as well are Juan Trippe, the wily founder of Pan Am (who was bent on shrinking the world by making air travel an affordable, mass-market service), and his legendary advisor, Charles Lindbergh. For villains, there are cutthroat competitors like Douglas and Lockheed, plus the FAA, which took a hard-nosed approach to certification of the wide-body jet after its mid-1969 rollout. Irving sketches in the history of Boeing as well, but by focusing on the creation of the revolutionary 747, he achieves sharper focus and greater impact than did Robert J. Serling in his Boeing history, Legend & Legacy (p. 709). A well-done tract on how an American enterprise advanced the state of aviation art, in the process helping to make the planet a global village. (Photos--32 pp. b&w--not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-09902-5
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992


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