BOOK REVIEW: Jet Flight

Henry Davies, work experience student, reviews a book from the library’s Archive Gallery.

Jet Flight, John Grierson, 1946

On my work experience at the IMechE I spent a day in the library and for part of the day I was privileged enough to visit the upper level of the library where I found and read a number of very interesting books from the dawn of flight. Among these was ‘Jet Flight’ which instantly pulled me into the story it had to tell and kept me reading for most of the morning.

‘Jet Flight’ is a book covering the earliest development of the jet engine, and the planes which it propelled. It is told in the first person by John Grierson who was a test pilot on many early British jet planes throughout his carrier. The principal character is Frank Whittle, who is widely credited with inventing the turbojet, and who did much of the early design and testing work on jets.

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Frank Whittle as a flight cadet

The book itself is concise, highly informative and covers a large number of the engineering challenges faced by Whittle as well some short explanations of how he solved them. It is not, however, filled with technical descriptions and complex equations – all the information is clearly and concisely explained in terms which makes it easily understandable to those with little or no engineering background. Grierson treats it more as history than technology and that is reflected in his less detail-oriented narrative. Instead he uses anecdotes and personal recollections to share this fascinating story with his readers.

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The Power Jets’ W1A, constructed by the B.T.H. Company. With this unit all the early flights of the Gloster-Whittle Pioneer were made.

Of course a fascinating story that is written so mind-numbingly that no one will ever have the willpower to read it is of no interest to anyone. Fortunately, Grierson has made this story very easy to read and it captured my imagination immediately. It was well written and the details that few other people would ever know or bother to include, for example why Whittle’s lab was called ‘the cherry orchard’, made it even easier to read on.

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Outline of the De Havilland 100 Vampire

In short I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in engineering, planes, or modern history as a book that can, and will, fill any spare minutes. It requires no technical knowledge and only a slight interest in the subject in order to appeal.

Grierson, J. 1946. Jet flight. London : Sampson Low, Marston & Co.

Archive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

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