Birdman: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss and the Battle to Control the Skies
by Lawrence Goldstone
This fantastic best seller is one that will satisfy any serious fan of aviation history. Beginning with such pioneers of flight as Otto Lilienthal in Germany and Octave Chanute in the US, Goldman quickly comes to the Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio and Glenn Curtiss of Hammondsport, New York. Showing how Lilienthal and Chanute influenced these three innovators, he then details how each persevered in flying America’s first powered airplanes.
This book is downright exciting – a “page-turner”, as they say. The author delves deeply into each participant’s human side, warts and all. Often these heroic figures are at loggerheads – the Wrights clash with each other, let alone with Curtiss, whom they accuse of stealing their patents. They strive to virtually patent the airplane. Their battles rage for years in the courts.
Leading the way in powered airplane flight, the Wrights engender a whole new world of entertainment – exhibition flying. From 1909-14 they and Curtiss bring their performing troupes to city after city all the way west to Los Angeles and Seattle. This is a magnificent era, but it comes at a huge cost. The touring flyers introduce millions to the airplane and make piles of money. But by 1912 more than 100 have lost their lives, mainly at public appearances. Airplanes fall apart in flight, turbulence hurls pilots from their seats, planes crash into crowded bleachers, the first bird strike kills a famous pilot, etc. All along the crowds are loving it all. The great Lincoln Beachey, who performed some of the earliest airshows in Canada, grows disgusted at how the hordes come out mainly to see him die. And so they finally do in 1915, when his plane disintegrates during a show at the great San Francisco exposition.
Another major theme is the years-long lawsuits pursued almost insanely by the Wrights against all other aeronautical enterprizers. Obsessed by their patents and paranoid about these being infringed upon, the Wrights spent a fortune in the courts. While aeronautics was progressing at Hammondsport, in the UK and across Europe, the Wrights dithered and lost their chance. Their Wright Flyers, in the meantime, became known as death traps. Dozens of airmen and passengers died in Wright Flyer crashes, while Curtiss machines gained the opposite reputation. In the end, Goldman concludes that the Wrights held up America in its quest to advance in aviation. Curtiss on one hand and Europe on the other set the pace in advancing aviation’s cause. Ironically, in the end the two warring sides made peace through a 1929 corporate alignment creating the Curtiss-Wright Co., which survives to this day.
Don’t miss this exceptional book that brings to life the great years of powered flight!
Birdman: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss and the Battle to Control the Skies
230 pages, hardcover, photos, notes, index $34.00, CANAV price $21.00 + $12.00 Canada Post + $2.10 tax. Total for Canada $35.10 Mail your cheque or pay by PayPal to email@example.com. USA and overseas please enquire for a price: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades
By Larry Milberry
Complementing Birdmen is this detailed history of the early years of flight in Canada. Beginning with Canada’s first flight – a balloon ascent in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1840, The Pioneer Decades explains how aviation went decade by decade in America’s next-door neighbour. Ballooning alone was a huge public fascination that produced one Canadian “first” after another, whether the Saint John ascent, the “first” aerial crossing between Canada and the US, the first powered airship appearances or the first parachute jump.
The Pioneer Decades then introduces heavier–than-air flight with teenager Larry Lesh’s daring glider experiments in Montreal in 1907. While Birdmen does tell a bit about Alexander Graham Bell and the Aerial Experiment Association, The Pioneer Decades covers the AEA program in detail, ending with the dramatic first powered airplane flight by the “Silver Dart” at Baddeck in 1909. There also is much of Glenn Curtiss and Hammondsport, where the “Silver Dart” was built and first flew.
The Pioneer Decades continues with the great years in Canada of the exhibition flyers, nearly all of whom are also covered in Birdmen. For example, Toronto’s first airplane flight is made by Charles Willard – a Curtiss-trained pilot flying his Curtiss-made “Golden Flyer”. The great Montreal and Toronto air meets of 1910 and 1911 are also here, with tales of the famed Curtiss and Wright pilots, many of whom would give their lives in the cause from 1907 onward – Lincoln Beachey, Cromwell Dixon, Eugene Ely, Ralph Johnstone, Phil Parmalee, etc.
The Pioneer Decades tells how McCurdy and Baldwin of the AEA tried selling their designs to the Canadian military, how Canada’s first WWI airmen trained at Curtiss and Wright schools, then how they excelled “Over the Front” in the first great aerial conflict. Many would fly the great Curtiss JN-4 and Curtiss’ renowned long-range, anti-submarine flying boats, about which, a few years earlier, the Wright camp had been scoffing. You’re bound to enjoy this beautifully-produced CANAV title.
Aviation in Canada: The Pioneer Decades
176 pages, large format, hardcover, photos, bibliography, index. $50.00 but with this offer $35.00 + $12.00 for Canada Post + $2.35 tax. Total for Canada $49.35 Mail your cheque or pay by PayPal to email@example.com. USA and overseas please enquire for a price (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
BOTH these leading titles: $56.00 + $15.00 for Canada Post + $3.55 tax. Total for Canada $74.55. Mail your cheque or pay by PayPal to email@example.com. USA and overseas please enquire for a price: firstname.lastname@example.org
CANAV Books, 51 Balsam Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4E 3B6
Tel: (416) 698-7559
Pierre Gillard’s Blog Features Ralph Clint’s Long-Lost Airliner Photos, A310s to the Boneyard, Readers React to Norseman Vol.2 + Initial Errata Details
The demise of Norseman 495, about which Bob Cameron of Whitehorse adds some details. (John Biehler Collection)
All the best to CANAV’s great supporters over 2014! Thanks hugely to one and all of you solid folks, who go back to the birth of CANAV in 1981, but also to you many new fans/younger readers who are gradually getting to know CANAV and all it has to offer via its top-notch book list and always-informative blog.
For January 4, 2014 please note that I’ve added an addendum to blog posting “The Wartime Era Fades”. This is based on an obituary that I spotted in today’s newspaper. You’ll absolutely enjoy this item. Find it easily by using the search box.
Blog followers will love what Pierre Gillard is doing with Ralph Clint’s collection of old slides. Born in 1935, Ralph passed away in 2013. A long-serving TCA/Air Canada radio operator, Ralph was the commensurate aviation fan (nothing shallow for him) and one of CANAV’s hard-working researchers, proof readers etc. since the days of our Canadair North Star book.
Three cheers for Pierre, a professor at E.N.A. at St. Hubert, who does such a fantastic job with his blog. To see his fine gallery of Ralph’s airliner photos, have a look at this week’s headline offerings at his blog. Looks like most of Pierre’s “Ralph” photos were taken in the 1960s-70s at Toronto YYZ, mainly from the upper parking level of the original (now recycled) “Aeroquay” passenger terminal. This is really a great trip back into the days of such types as the stubby DC-9-15 and such Classic 747s as CF-TOA, a vintage -133. Each photo was decently taken by Ralph and and has been nicely “tweaked up” by Pierre. As to “tweaking”, Pierre explains: “Most of Ralph’s slides are easy to scan and process because they are not Kodachromes. So, I can use a function to virtually wipe dust and remove scratches, which is totally impossible to do with Kodachrome slides. This saves a lot of time.”
This week Pierre also covers the dismantling of a couple of Air Transat Airbus 310s (“On démantèle à Mirabel”, A310 “au recyclage”, etc.). Who would believe that these seemingly modern airliners so soon could be over the hill but … I guess we’re all getting there. Something to think about, eh!
“Merci bien” CANAV people and good reading (as usual) to one and all … Larry
A Norseman Aficionado Weighs In
Norseman readers are gradually getting back to me with their comments about our new books. I’ve just heard from Bob Cameron of Whitehorse. Bob led a small team back in the 1990s restoring Fokker Super Universal CF-AAM (dormant since a 1937 accident) to flying condition. He and his pals then toured Canada in this astoundingly historic plane, a photo of which graces the cover of Aviation in Canada: The Formative Years. CF-AAM today is permanently on show at the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg. Last year Bob’s grand book, Yukon Wings, was published. You can read my review of this big-time beauty for more details.
Bob also is a veteran Norseman pilot, so who better to pass judgment on a Norseman book? Off the top, this is what he has to say: “The hi-lite of my Christmas was the arrival of your magnificent Norseman Vol. I! It is fabulous, and I am absorbing every millimeter of it!”
Encrusted remnants of Norseman 495 as they sit today on the bottom of Tagish Lake. (via Bob Cameron)
Bob adds some historic tidbits about the dramatic wreck of RCAF Norseman 495, pictured on p.151 of Norseman Vol.1: “That happened 40 miles south of here on Tagish Lake on St. Patrick’s Day, 1950. One guy was checking out another on skis. Unfortunately, they chose to shoot a landing too far off shore, in flat light, rendering depth perception next to impossible.” He then explains the final fate of 495. The RCAF salvage team stripped it of useful parts, then abandonned the wreck to settle to the lake bottom with the spring melt. If one flies over Tagish Lake today, the outline of 495 may still be spotted in the shallow water. Bob finishes: “Anyway, good work, Larry, I’ve waited a long time for a pictorial history of one of my favourite airplanes!”
The Gremlins are About!
Several typical typos have been pointed out in the Norseman volumes. These inevitably seem to occur no matter how hard we try to correct them before printing. Thanks to former Norseman pilot Rodney Kozar for spotting these. The real clanger is the one referring to the great Dishlevoy/Magnusson Norseman website as noorduynnorseman.com, when that should be norsemanhistory.ca. So please make a note (but do use both sites, eh).
In Vol.1: In Norseman Vol.1 p.119, the correct date for the Hazelton crash is the one shown on the grave marker.
For p.120 somehow the caption for Norseman 2477 got transposed. In an earlier version of the galleys the correct caption is in place — can you believe it! So how in the world did it end up with a caption for Norseman 2469. The desired caption is: Camping with 2477 at Crystal 1 in March 1942. From February 6 to April 4, 1942 this Norseman was on loan to Ferry Command for the Eastern Arctic airstrip/weather station survey. Postwar, it was CF-PAB. While serving Associated Airways of Edmonton, in August 1954 it was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident. (A.W. Baker Col.)
p. 197 – the correct month for the Nelles incident is August.
In Vol. 2 – p.11, line 2 of caption, change RCAF to RCMP
p.13 – lower caption, change Ontario to Canadian
p.14 – top caption for CF-OBG incorrectly gives the info for CF-OBF
p.17 – in the chart, change CF-UDD to CF-UUD
p.20 – lower caption change CF-SAN to CF-SAH
p.41 – at end of CF-GUE entry, the Huron Air mention applies to above entry for CF-GSR
pp.62/63 – all registrations should read CF-EIH, delete CF-EIN
p.74 – CF-GUM Mark IV, change to UC-64A; CF-HFV change serial no. to N29-50; CF-SAHI V, change to CF-SAH IV; CF-SAM Mark IV, change to V.
p.123 – lower caption change OK-XDB is OK-XBD
p.194 – lower caption, change CF-ORD to CF-OBD
p.239 – 2nd para, col.3 CF-DRD went on permanent display in 1992
p.246 – top caption change CF-GTN to CF-GJN
p.286 – lower photo, Norseman shown is CF-JIN, not CF-JEC
Pierre Gillard Reviews Norseman Vol. 2
Probablement que, pour Larry Milberry, les 232 pages du premier volume consacré au Noorduyn Norseman avait un “goût de trop peu” car il a immédiatement embrayé, en solo cette fois-ci, avec un second volume ne comprenant pas moins de 304 pages ! Il restait donc beaucoup de choses à dire encore au sujet de cet avion de brousse produit à Cartierville. Et vous n’allez pas me croire quand je vous dirai que l’auteur a reçu des commentaires acerbes de certains frustrés mentionnant qu’il manquait de détails au sujet de quelques opérateurs “oubliés” par le récit!
Toujours est-il que ce second volume traite essentiellement des Norseman utilisés après la Seconde guerre mondiale par la Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC-RCMP), les opérateurs civils canadiens ainsi que les opérateurs étrangers, toujours avec le souci du détail et la minutie que l’on connaît à Larry Milberry. Une place importante est réservée aux résultats de nombreuses entrevues et échanges que l’auteur a eus avec des personnes pour qui cet avion était le gagne-pain. C’est ainsi que j’ai retrouvé une belle participation de mon ami Paul Gagnon, à ses débuts en qualité de pilote de brousse, dont des récits de quelques “aventures” vécues avec des Norseman.
Sur le plan des illustrations, un grand nombre de photos en couleur, dont certaines sont absolument magnifiques et relèvent du grand art, complètent les archives extraordinaires en noir et blanc publiées dans les deux volumes. Comme toujours, à la lecture des ouvrages de Canav Book, on peut se demander comment il est possible de rassembler autant de documents photographiques inédits. Avec ces deux volumes au sujet du Norduyn Norseman, Larry Milberry et Hugh A. Halliday ont définitivement comblé un vide historique pour cet avion construit au Québec.
For Pierre’s review of Norseman Vol. 1, click here.
Reminder to UK and EuroZone bibliophiles … pick up your copy of Norseman Vol.1 and Vol.2 at Simon Watson’s Aviation Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells, UK. Email: email@example.com. Or … visit Henk Timmers’ Aviation Megastore at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted in Aviation history, Aviation in Canada, Bushplanes, New release, Norseman, Reader comments, Reviews