Flight Plan

My flight plan....to encourage, mentor, guide those pining for the sky. I'm also here to virtually open the flight deck door for those who want to take a peek at the many aspects of aviation.....enjoy!

...and welcome aboard!...


The latest "Readbacks"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review - JET AGE

Captain Doug's book review. JET AGE: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World

Jet Age

It took war to create the jet engine. It took rivalry to develop the B707 against the British made de Havilland Comet.

Sam Howe Verhovek's well researched book, Jet Age, depicts the pinnacle events of the “jet age”…starting from its infancy…to when a passenger is whisked at 500 mph in total comfort. He does this by not simply regurgitating dates, events and developments, but by conveying a personal side to things.

His take on this magnificent era resists chronological order as he renders aviation events with a unique slant. The book moves back and forth in time and to and fro geographic settings. All of which entices the reader. For me, his book rekindled an interest in aviation history.

We, the flying public (pilots included), sometimes need reminding of just how majestic a modern airliner is. And Verhovek's book reminds us how competition, innovation, failure, conflict but perseverance paid off to shrink our world....


The book starts off with the rivalry with the British and the Americans as to who will rule the airways. How else to get the competitive juices flowing? The British came out strong with the Comet…”It appeared almost impossibly sleek, its four “Ghost” engines tucked into the wings.”

He then whisks the reader across the Atlantic to the extreme American northwest city of Seattle, Washington to read about Boeing’s infancy. The B707 emerged at the helm of test pilot Tex Johnston and Verhovek keeps you entertained of Tex and his antics. Especially flying the B707 completely inverted during the official launch the B707 program.

One also can’t overlook two great innovators who both lay claim to the invention of the jet engine – Frank Whittle of England and Hans von Oahin of Germany during WWII. Talk about rivalry!

Neat facts

The author brings to light lots of neat hidden facts. For instance, the Wright brothers’ first full account of their aerial feat came by a reporter in a beekeepers journal called Gleanings in Bee Culture.

You’ll also learn about Geoffrey de Havilland, an aviation titan and brains behind the Comet, and his obsessions in aviation. Today the name de Havilland is still synonymous to aviation.


Because the author resides in Seattle, Washington, the book dwells heavily on Boeing. Why not? They rule(d)!

For me as an airline pilot nearing ten thousand hours on an Airbus it didn’t hurt one bit. :) Boeing makes great aircraft and my next endorsement will be a Boeing product. Though the word “Airbus” didn’t make it in his book, I still loved the read. And you will too!

The airliner

The airliner…what an invention! Sure the Internet, and telecommunications broke down political walls, but the airliner shattered borders, shrunk our world and opened new horizons.

In the time it takes the world to spin half a rotation, one can be on the other side of the planet, enshrouded by a foreign language, culture, philosophy and way of life.

Sam Howe Verhovek nails this shrinking phenomenon by describing the aviation feat…”for the first time, in however rudimentary and precarious and brief a fashion, man could direct the course of his flight. It had taken the human race thousands of years to get to this step; in less than half a century, people would be able to step aboard a jet airliner and move at the unthinkable speed of 500 miles per hour.”

Book Purchase

So go to your local bookstore or go on line and order up this great read on the emergence of the jet age. Anyone who has flown on an airplane, either as a passenger or flight crew, will be entertained of Verhovek’s detective like tales.

Here’s the book’s website and where you can buy it:



Anonymous said...

Hi Doug!

Thanks for the book suggestion - it looks quite interesting! The jet has certainly come along way!

Great post as always!


From the Flight Deck said...

Thanks Heather. Are you pursuing the dispatch thing any further? Doug

Anonymous said...

No, I don't think so - I looked into it more and I don't think it's right for me. I do however thank you for your help!

Heather :)

Anonymous said...


If you ever need anything further, please feel free to contact me. Hope I didn't discourage you!

YYC Dispatcher

carlton said...

Thanks for that, it looks like a gem, it is on my Christmas list - hopefully on Christmas Day it will accompany 'From The Flight Deck, plane talk and sky science' on my bookshelf ; )

From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. It truly is a good read. And what???? You don't have MY book yet?

That's even a better read. lol

Thanks for checking in.


From the Flight Deck said...

Heather. Well then, will you still pursue aviation?
Surely my blog didn't scare you. :)

YYC Dispatcher. Haven't heard from you in awhile.


carlton said...

I do have your book, I purchased it around 3 years ago in a Waterstones in London - and have read it several times (and still often 'flick' through it.) I meant that this (Jet Age) book can accompany your book on the shelf : )

Your book was for sale in several UK bookstores until recently - I havent seen it for a few months now though?

Anonymous said...

Hi, Captain Doug. I love your blog ... and love this review! I, too, have read 'Jet Age' and was engrossed and thrilled by it. As a conoisseur of aviation history, I would go out on a limb and say this is +the best+ aviation popular-history book I've ever read, as in, written for a reasonably intelligent general-interest reader rather than someone with an IFR rating or masters in aeronautical engineering. Verhovek has an uncanny eye for details, vignettes, and quotes, and his chapter where he tells something big about the grand sweep of airline history by focusing on how the role of stewardesses evolved from nurses to hot-pants models is nothing short of brilliant. I love this book and you are spot-on to give it such an encouraging review.
Happy blogging and happy flying!

D. Hollis Traeger

From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. I thought you mentioned you bought my book.

Thanks for the clarification. Yeah, I guess my book has run it's course in most bookstores but it's still selling well on the Amazon sites.

Just sent three off in the mail today.

From the Flight Deck said...

D. Hollis Traegar. Thanks for checking in and your kind words! I totally overlooked all the great discourses Verhovek gave about the "flight attendant" era.

Now those were the days.

Actually, that part is still around but in a different way. I better quit while I'm ahead. :)

Again, thanks for backing up my review.

Captain Doug

Anonymous said...

YYC Dispatcher and Doug,

No, no! You guys were great! Very helpful and informative but I just decided to go in a different direction. I do appreciate all the help though.

And no Doug - I don't scare that easily!!

Heather :)

coreydotcom said...

Pretty funny - I'm actually reading it now. I can see it on my bedside table as I type this.

I might add that it's a very easy read (i.e. normal size font, good spacing, etc.) and there are even a couple of pages of pictures. So far my favorite part of the book has been the description of the TWO barrel rolls performed by Tex.

Side question. I know you guys value your job and lives too much to try, but is an intentional barrel roll theoretically possible in a modern airliner. Could you theoretically intentionally barrel roll a A320 and just keep on flying? Any systems in place to prevent "excessive" roll?

I know I've seen videos of people barrel rolling citations on you tube. Also, wasn't there an incident in the 80's or 90's where a 747 was flying completely upside down for a while (after trouble going through the volcanic ash) but they eventually regained control for a safe landing.

From the Flight Deck said...


I agree, it is an easy read regarding font size... something I appreciate more and more. :)

They say a modern airliner can be rolled. But that's as far as I'll take this.

The Airbus while in "Normal law" does not allow extremely steep turns so one would have to do "other" things.

Under Normal Law: Up to 33 degrees bank, the pilot can let go of the stick and the plane will retain the bank angle at that time. Beyond 33 degrees and up to 67 degrees the pilot has to hold the stick. If he lets go of the stick, the plane will go back to 33 degrees. The Airbus won't let you go past 67 degrees in Normal Law.

Again, this is out of Captain Doug's "straight and level" realm. :)

Thanks for the feedback on the book!