An informative overview of the Western world's airline industry from the end of WW I through the recent past. Drawing on a voluminous public record and interviews with contemporary sources, Heppenheimer (The Coming Quake, 1988, etc.) offers a down-to-earth account of who and what shaped commercial aviation over the past 75 years. While the feats of Charles Lindbergh captured the public's imagination, he observes, the efforts of pioneering airframe manufacturers to develop better bombers for the US military were of greater significance to fledgling carriers. The author goes on to review concurrent advances in engine design, focusing on the jet-propulsion work done in Nazi Germany as well as the UK, which paved the way for the workhorse airliners and showcase SSTs now in service. Heppenheimer examines the roles played by American suppliers (Boeing, Douglas, GE, Lockheed, Pratt & Whitney, et al.) and the US government in the evolution of the global airline industry. He does the same for such foreign vendors as the state-owned Airbus Industrie, de Havilland, and Rolls-Royce. Covered as well are the instrumentation gains that allow foul-weather as well as night flights, the unintended consequences of deregulation in the US, the state of the art in air traffic control, and what the future might hold for stateside survivors (American, Continental, Delta, United) in an archetypally cyclic business whose costs consistently exceed its revenues. An airworthy briefing firmly grounded in the applied science and allied realities that permit the air transport of passengers and cargo over long distances and high speeds.