THE AIR DEVILS by Don Dwiggins


Email this review


This is a spritely, often funny and exciting picture of those crazies of the sky from the Montgolfier balloonatics to today's stunt fliers. Much of the material is familiar but can stand retelling. (The author has been aviation editor for some Los Angeles papers for twenty years.) The most romantic of the early voyagers of the sky happened also to be the first man ever to fly, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier. Among his other firsts were the first channel crossing by air and first air fatality. De Rozier's romantic interludes on land lend some poignancy to his last disastrous flight on a June night in 1785 (the balloon exploded). Aerial balloons were used by the Confederate army in the Civil War. Several of the early stunt pilots and barnstormers, not to mention battle aces, are still alive and were interviewed by Dwiggins. The years of excitement over the first dirigibilists and Zeppelinists gave way to the public's thirst for speed in airplanes and for wild stunts such as wingwalking and leaping without a parachute from plane to haystack. Like actors, pilots were far from universally respected. As one girl tearfully told her lover, ""Daddy said he would rather have a bastard in the family than a pilot."" Dwiggins ends with a happy review of today's aerobatics and sky-divers. Good fun, but the landings are not always funny.

Publisher: Lippincott