Cover image for Wings : a history of aviation from kites to the space age
Wings : a history of aviation from kites to the space age
Crouch, Tom D.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum ; New York : W.W. Norton, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 725 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Foundation stories -- Taking to the air -- The world takes wing, 1904-1909 -- From experiment to industry, 1909-1914 -- Into the fight: the airplane at war, 1914-1918 -- Laying the foundation, 1919-1927 -- Big business, 1927-1935 -- The roar of the crowd, 1927-1939 -- Revolutions in the sky, 1926-1941 -- Setting the stage, 1929-1939 -- Battles in the sky, 1939-1945 -- Toward new horizons -- From aviation to aerospace, 1945-2003 -- Cold war, hot war -- A world in the air, 1945-2003.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL515 .C76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
TL515 .C76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
TL515 .C76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
TL515 .C76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The invention of the airplane ushered in the modern age--a new era of global commerce, revolutionary technologies, and total war. Whatever the practical consequences, the sheer exhilaration of flight captured the imagination. No longer bound to the surface of the earth, humans took the first steps on a journey that would eventually carry them to other worlds. Tom Crouch weaves the people, machines, and ideas of the air age into a compelling narrative. He tells how the enthusiasm of amateurs spawned an industry that determined the rise and fall of nations. Yet this is not a tale of unalloyed progress. Moments of exaltation were tempered by bitter disappointment and stark terror. Blind alleys were the price of technical progress. In the end, there is no more fascinating cast of characters than those who wrote history in the sky. Theirs is a fascinating story of realizing an extraordinary dream and riding it.

Author Notes

Tom D. Crouch is an aeronautics historian and curator. Crouch attended Ohio University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1966. He also attended Miami University and received a Master of Arts degree in history there in 1968. He later earned a Ph.D in history from the Ohio State University in 1976. In 2001 the Wright State University awarded him with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Crouch is the author books and many articles, primarily on topics related to the history of flight technology. Crouch was awarded a 1989 Christopher Award for his book The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright. In 2005 he won the AIAA Gardner-Lasser Literature Prize for the book Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites to the Space Age.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Aviation buffs will love Crouch's history of the industry's century-long technological ascent from gliders to jetliners and stealth bombers. Better yet, the author incorporates the business side of the industry into his narrative, reminding admirers of particular planes that they express attempts to make flying pay (except for military and research planes, of course). Making money has always been a challenge in aviation; the Wright brothers did so, barely, but their company and hundreds of successors in manufacturing have vanished. Crouch tracks the shakeouts and mergers as much as he does the development of classics such as the DC-3 and Boeing 707. The evolution of military aircraft and, particularly, their pilots also receives his attention. The still-famous aces of World War I are recalled in the most detail, as are aviators of the 1920s and 1930s such as Bessie Coleman, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 of notes and a vast array of sources. Capturing the romance of flight along with successes, failures and many memorable figures from Lindbergh to Yeager, this is a book that soars, a worthy celebration of the centennial of the Wright Brothers' first flight. 125 illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Describing the development of aviation as a "punctuated equilibrium" process that resembles Stephen J. Gould's evolutionary mode, Crouch (senior curator, U.S. National Air & Space Museum, Aeronautics Division) has written a scholarly yet readable and enjoyable study. While not as photo-filled as other texts celebrating the centennial of the Wright Brothers' first flight, Crouch's book is a fine narrative history. Drawing on contemporary observations from Gutzon Borglum (the Mount Rushmore sculptor) and Pablo Picasso to Buckminster Fuller, Crouch explicates the impact of aviation on humanity without losing sight of the Wright Brothers, Jacqueline Cochran, Hugo Junkers, and other players in the development of winged flight. He notes human foibles like Charles Lindbergh's anti-Semitism and the Wright Brothers' patent paranoia but focuses on the breathtaking joy of flight that motivated engineers and pilots alike. Crouch has previously written on Lindbergh and other aviators, and his well-researched work is suited to academic and large public libraries.-Sara Tompson, Packer Engineering Lib., Naperville, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Crouch (senior curator, aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum) presents an interesting and compelling history of aviation. His approach is interpretive rather than encyclopedic. Early ideas of the possibility of flight are evidenced by the use of kites, windmills, and gliders. The innovation and technological improvements that preceded the development of aviation are replete with accounts of visionaries, inventors, pilots, and corporations that shaped aviation, sometimes in response to world events and socioeconomic circumstances. From Montgolfier's balloons, to Sir George Cayley's work in aerodynamics and a monoplane he called a "governable parachute," to the Wright Brothers, early aeronautical puzzles were solved piece by piece. The book discusses commercial advances from propeller-driven aircraft to jets and helicopters as aviation changed the course of transportation and global economics, along with the intertwined development of utilizing aircraft in warfare. Familiar names like von Richthofen, Immelman, Mitchell, Doolittle, Glenn, and others shaped the global 20th century through air power. A fine volume appealing to a variety of ages of aviation enthusiasts. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels. W. A. McIntyre New Hampshire Community Technical College at Nashua

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Prologue: "Well Ned, It's Wonderful"p. 3
1 Foundation Stonesp. 19
2 Taking to the Airp. 54
3 The World Takes Wing, 1904-1909p. 85
4 From Experiment to Industry, 1909-1914p. 119
5 Into the Fight: The Airplane at War, 1914-1918p. 151
6 Laying the Foundation, 1919-1927p. 195
7 Big Business, 1927-1935p. 239
8 The Roar of the Crowd, 1927-1939p. 277
9 Revolutions in the Sky, 1926-1941p. 316
10 Setting the Stage, 1929-1939p. 356
11 Battles in the Sky, 1939-1945p. 395
12 Toward New Horizonsp. 443
13 From Aviation to Aerospace, 1945-2003p. 487
14 Cold War, Hot Warp. 537
15 A World in the Air, 1945-2003p. 592
Conclusionp. 633
Glossaryp. 641
Notesp. 649
Bibliographyp. 677
Creditsp. 691
Indexp. 693