February 23rd, 2011
This book by John Newhouse gives a very good overview of the aircraft industry of the 60′s and 70′s. Though an old book, I liked it a lot as it dealt with the history of aviation industry and what all the manufacturers and the airlines had been through. I was surprised to know how big a player Pan am was in the early days. It was the launch customer of Boeing 707, the DC-8 and Boeing 747 .
The most interesting part of the book was the introduction of Boeing 747 which almost took Boeing, Pan am and Pratt & Whitney to the verge of bankruptcy. I liked the way Boeing handled it’s troubles during the 747 period and how it learned from it mistakes eventually becoming one of the best and most productive manufacturers. This particular period in 60′s was when everyone predicted (of course wrongly) too much growth and went ahead unnecessarily with the wide-body planes. One key take away here for me is that mistakes do happen but the point is to learn from those and take some bold steps to come back (like Boeing did) instead of giving up.
The last chapter dealing with problems of American companies and the Japanese way of doing things was also good. The book slightly took away my respect for Rolls-Royce aircraft engines. Though it was good at cars, the way it could not stick to some of the promises it made for the Lockheed L-1011 was a bit disappointing and the way Haughton (the then Lockheed’s head) came up with a solution to save Rolls-Royce and eventually Lockheed by going ahead with L-1011 is appreciative. On the whole, the book ends with the rise of the Airbus Industrie and the beginning of the Airbus A-310 & A-320 programs. That’s the time when Airbus started posing a real threat to the American companies.The level of politics and the stakes involved in this industry is very interesting. It’s a good read for any aviation industry enthusiast and would definitely suggest it.
Entry Filed under: Books I read