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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age » User review

Credibility and accuracy issues

  • Mar 7, 2004
This should have been a "blockbuster," considering the author's credentials: senior curator of aeronautic at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. But the effort falls far short because of glaring inaccuracies and an apparent political bias that simply has no place in a purported history of flight.
Crouch tells of an airship "seven football fields" long. No airshp, literally a Zeppelin, was 2,100 feet long. In another place, Crouch says a B-24 bomber comprised more than 1,500,000 parts held together by 4,000 rivets. Huh? Mr. Crouch is definitely more than a few rivets short in this case.
Many may remember the controversy that surrounded the National Air and Space Museum exhbit a few years back that was withdrawn because of its implied criticism of the U.S. decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan. I do not know what role, if any, Mr. Crouch played in that exhibit, but his political bias against the U.S. action is in full bloom in this book, a very unfortunate display. This is purportedly a history of flight, not a platform for the author's political views.
The factual errors noted above are jarring. If Crouch didn't read his manuscript carefully enough to eliminate a reference to a 2,100 foot airship, what other errors crept in?
Overall, Wings is a treasure of anecdotal history. It is rich in detail, with many citations. But because of the errors noted here and numerous others, I would not want to rely on this book as the last word on the subject.


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More Wings: A History of Aviation f... reviews
review by . August 25, 2008
The writing isn't bad in this book (nor is it that good), but the real problem with this book is that the scope is too large for the effort. The 100-year history of aviation cannot be compressed into 639 pages. Crouch should have focused on military aviation, commercial aviation, or aviation technology to be able to drill to enough depth in this space to make this a worthwhile expenditure of time. Or he should have expanded the format and writing to a multi-volume set to give each topic the care …
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Jerry Saperstein ()
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I am an e-discovery strategist, computer forensics specialist and testifying expert witness - and an avid reader.      Aside from technology books, I love thrillers, suspense, mystery, … more
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National Air and Space Museum curator Crouch (A Dream of Wings; The Bishop's Boys) exuberantly surveys the entirety of aviation history. Wealthy aristocrat George Cayley progressed from a helicopter toy (1796) and model gliders (1804) to a glider capable of lifting a human (1849). After Cayley came a parade of pioneers, including John Joseph Montgomery, the "first American to leave the ground on wings of his own design" (1884). Otto Lilienthal made 2,000 glider flights, and his 1896 death during an airborne accident piqued the Wright Brothers' interest. At this point, Crouch carries the narrative aloft, taking note of the exhilarating exhibitions by barnstorming "aerial gypsies" after the WWI aircraft production boom. With the Air Mail Act of 1925, "Post Office officials realized that they were laying the foundation for commercial aviation in the United States." The Allies in WWII learned much from downed Messerschmitts and other Nazi rocket secrets, ushering in a new era of high-speed aerodynamics that cued a shift from aviation to aerospace (travel beyond earth's atmosphere). Computers brought change; in-flight movies were introduced in 1961; and weather-beaten hangars were replaced by gleaming terminals. With international tourism came the spread of American commercial culture. The book concludes with September 11 and the airline losses and layoffs that followed. Crouch notes that his history was "30 years in the making," and his exhaustive research is evident in 42 pages ...
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ISBN-10: 0393057674
ISBN-13: 978-0393057676
Author: Tom D. Crouch
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

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