A dirigible-size dynasty/romance which glides through the history of British aviation--from pioneering flops to jets--while nose-diving with a considerably heavier-than-air love story. In 1903 Amelia Jerningham tiptoes from Jerningham Hall for a rendezvous with blacksmith's son James March. . . and with ""Ajax"": the silk-winged, bicycle-wheeled flying machine which James had designed and constructed, with Amelia's help. The aircraft's hapless maiden flight ensues--as does Amelia's pregnancy. But marriage to James is out of the question, so Amelia reluctantly weds rising, bullying politician Sir Frederick Haybury, who is official father to baby Charles and actual pa to baby Arthur. . . while James, not knowing he has a son, grumps off for a career in aviation--with American impresario/inventor Colonel Cody. Then comes War! James shoots down a zeppelin with rockets; he loves and spats with Amelia; he takes on a high-flying Fokker, lands behind the lines in France, and is rescued by Countess Marie, whom he'll marry when she becomes enceinte. Meanwhile, air-race expert Amelia pilots herself toward Australia, lands in a desert, and is rescued by (of course) James. Charles, a chip off the old fuselage, hated by Sir Frederick, is also a flyboy--but during WW II he'll fail in love with Marianne, who's his secret half-sister. Arthur, married to nice Prudence, will test political currents, sire Rachel, and perish in an air raid. The whole family will be variously faced with air disasters, terrorist bombs, and a Nazi execution. And though Amelia will never quite hook up with James (and will be booted from her aviation factory's chairmanship), she'll find hope in the integrity and ambitions of her two James-descended grandchildren. (As for Ajax, the plane seems to have the worst luck: crashes, fog-bound races, and dumps in a pond.) All in all: a long, by-the-numbers saga loaded with the grand old names of planes and inventors--but lacking the warmth, intimacy, and grit of Jacqueline Briskin's similar Onyx (p. 356), which does the same routine with automobiles.