The 25 Most Influential Aircraft of All Time conveys the fascinating progression of flying technology from flimsy wood-and-fabric biplanes to thunderous supersonic wonders. Aviation’s most historically relevant and arguably most influential aircraft – planes like the elliptical-winged Spitfire, the blisteringly-fast X-15, and the ubiquitous Learjet – are dramatically showcased in individual chapters. Factors like performance, price, operational efficiency, and perceptions in popular culture are examined.
People are just as important as hardware in the discussion of the world’s greatest aircraft. The larger-than-life characters who designed and built these aeronautical marvels – men like the reclusive Howard Hughes and the demanding Clarence “Kelly” Johnson – are an indispensable part of the story. So, too, are the fearless pilots like Charles Lindbergh and Chuck Yeager who gave life to the shining examples of a new and dynamic industry. The authors have flown or flown in many of the featured aircraft and they knew many of the luminous personalities involved, enabling them to share unique perspectives.
The preface is written by William Lloyd Stearman, a former staff member of the National Security Council and the son of famed industry engineer Lloyd Stearman. The introduction is written by Norman R. Augustine, the retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation. The foreword is written by Burt Rutan, the renowned aircraft designer and founder of Scaled Composites. Each aircraft is magnificently illustrated in color, mostly with paintings by leading aviation artists.
Walter J. Boyne is the former Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and the Chairman Emeritus of the National Aeronautic Association. He accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours in a variety of U.S. Air Force aircraft, including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress as a nuclear test pilot with Air Force Systems Command. Colonel Boyne has written over 70 aviation-related books including bestsellers on both the New York Times fiction and nonfiction lists. Colonel Boyne holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California at Berkeley.
In 2007, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, joining approximately 270 of the most famous names in global aviation. In 2011, he was inducted into the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame for his service during the Vietnam War. In 2014, he received the Major General I. B. Holley Award from the Air Force Historical Foundation for contributions to the preservation of Air Force history. He is also a member of the French Society de l’Air et de l’Espace.
Colonel Boyne is one of the most frequently-televised authorities in highly-rated aerospace programming of the Discovery and History Channels. He continues to be a much sought-after on-air expert for domestic and international television productions. Colonel Boyne wrote a regular column on historic airplanes for the Air Force Association’s Air Force magazine.
Philip Handleman is President of Handleman Filmworks, an Emmy-winning independent production company. Mr. Handleman’s still photography graces the U.S. postage stamps that commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the Air Force and the Air Force Academy, with print runs of 45 million and 60 million, respectively. He is a long-time pilot who currently owns and flies a World War II-vintage Stearman biplane. He has written 22 aviation-related books and maintains one of the world’s largest aviation libraries at his private airport. Mr. Handleman graduated from Washington University and completed the Executive Academy at the University of Michigan’s Graduate School of Business Administration.
Mr. Handleman is the recipient of the 2008 Harriet Quimby Award from the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame for contributions to aviation art and literature. In 2010, he received the Combs Gates Award from the National Aviation Hall of Fame for contributions to the preservation of America’s air and space heritage. He has also been recognized by the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum with its Outstanding Achievement Award and its Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award. For his advocacy of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, the National Guard Association of Michigan presented him with an Honorary Life Membership.
Known as a staunch aviation advocate, Mr. Handleman fostered changes in federal aviation statutes that enhance nondiscriminatory regulation in the national airspace system. His articles have appeared in many aviation publications like Aviation History magazine. He has also contributed to a wide range of non-aviation publications, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times.