Last-minute gift ideas for aviation buffs

Dec 18, 2010

Three books by Pacific Northwest authors have come to my attention this season that would please airplane aficionados of many persuasions. 

For the photo-lover on your list, or anyone interested in commercial aviation in general, The Birth of the 787 Dreamliner by Boeing photographer Edgar Turner could be a hit. With more than 250 glossy images - many of them quite stunning - this hefty tome provides an insider's look at the new jet's evolution from concept to first flight.  Although the 787 has been plagued by delays and problems, as Geek Gestalt Blogger Daniel Terdiman points out, it's still one of the most anticipated commercial airplanes in history. He has a slide show with many of the images from the book here. The book is available at a discounted price ($49 instead of $85 elsewhere) on the Boeing Store website

For those more interested in the corporate culture behind the images, Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers offers insight into a ten-year period of extreme change at the commercial arm of the company. It follows 3,500 employees during the years after the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas. Meticulously compiled by a team that includes professors of psychology and sociology at the University of Puget Sound, it offers both quantitative and qualitative research into how organizational change affects the workforce and how the workforce can cope (or not) in the face of it. A review of the book in the New York Times enthusiastically recommends it, saying "Turbulence should be required reading for anyone at a major American corporation, especially those in top management." A quick check Friday revealed the book is out of stock at amazon.com and the Yale University Press sites, but is available at Borders for a premium.

Finally, this list would not be complete without a plug for Seattle writer Sam Verhoevik's Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World. The book received a lot of press when it was published last month, with some very memorable descriptions of how bumpy and nauseating early air travel was – not to mention the horrific reminders of the dangers and risks taken to launch the first transatlantic flights. It's a fascinating period and arguably the genesis of globalization, with all of its perks and perils.

Here's an excerpt from the publisher's promotional blurb on amazon.com:

"At the center of this story are great minds and courageous souls, including Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who spearheaded the development of the Comet, even as two of his sons lost their lives flying earlier models of his aircraft; Sir Arnold Hall, the brilliant British aerodynamicist tasked with uncovering the Comet's fatal flaw; Bill Allen, Boeing's deceptively mild-mannered president; and Alvin "Tex" Johnston, Boeing's swashbuckling but supremely skilled test pilot. The extraordinary airplanes themselves emerge as characters in the drama. As the Comet and the Boeing 707 go head-to-head, flying twice as fast and high as the propeller planes that preceded them, the book captures the electrifying spirit of an era: the Jet Age."