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Firsts in Flight
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Firsts in Flight

Alexander Graham Bell and his Innovative Airplanes

By Terrance W. MacDonald

$24.95 Paperback
Temporarily unavailable

Rating: 5 / 5 stars - 2 vote(s).

Alexander Graham Bell and his team of innovative young engineers created groundbreaking new technologies during three years of furious activity in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, in the early 1900s. The knowledge and skills of this group allowed them to innovate flight technologies which have continued to be fundamental to aircraft design. In this book, aviation author Terrance MacDonald puts together, for the first time, the full story of their achievements.

Bell's unique group of engineers, a mechanical specialist and a military officer, built over twenty airplanes, which incorporated many new sophisticated technological developments. Bell's well-known Silver Dart was only one of a long line of his team's experimental airplanes.

This book describes the aircraft, the people, and the communities who participated with Bell in his mission to construct a reliable and secure flying machine. Over the years the group started to lose members, and when the Canadian government refused to purchase aircraft based on Bell's experiments the reconfigured group folded. Meanwhile, one group member left to found a major aircraft manufacturing operation in the US.

Bell's team carefully documented all their work, and as a consequence there are hundreds of compelling photos from this era. The book includes 60+ of these images, and offers links to early movies documenting these aircraft and their flights.

"Terrance MacDonald does yeoman's work bringing to light Bell's enormous contributions to aviation."

- Atlantic Books Today

TERRANCE W. MacDONALD is also the author of The Black Box: Dead Pilots Don't Talk. He is a retired airline pilot who has taken up writing for a second career. He lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Customer Reviews:

Reviewed by: Glenn on 3rd November 2017 1:08PM

Best read for me in a long time! A beautiful piece of history that needed to be told and Terrance Macdonald told it so well. I am a Check Pilot for a major Canadian airline. I was born in Nova Scotia yet was not aware of the extent of Bell's contribution to aviation. This story stood the hair up on my neck many times as I read about these legends of aviation from the past like Bell, Curtiss, Baldwin, Selfridge, the Wrights, and MacDonald makes them real people for us. Wonderfully researched and wonderfully told. The story evokes much emotion throughout from Pride to elation to sadness as you experience the infancy of aviation with them. You suddenly realize that at the time getting a man in the air was no less of a task or less risk than sending a man to the moon in the 60's. These were the giants Armstrong and Aldrin stood on the shoulders of to get to the moon eventually. It is also refreshing as a professional aviator to hear this story told from a professional aviator rather than the usual historian whose limited knowledge of aviation would normally come through. Instead Mr. MacDonald is very accurate in his descriptions of theory of flight problems and solutions as they discovered them balancing the accuracy and complexity nicely as to be thorough but not carry a layman too deep in the weeds. Overall a wonderful surprise that I would highly recommend for yourself or a gift for anyone at all interested in history, aviation or both. It carries a lot of Canadian pride as well when you watch Baddeck surpass the rest of the world in aviation. I would love to see this story made into a movie!

Reviewed by: Pmac on 3rd November 2017 1:08PM

In "Firsts in Flight" Terrance MacDonald tells a concise and dramatic story of how crucial Alexander Graham Bell's team were in airplane development and how their approach differed considerably from the American Wright Brothers. The Wrights were more secretive in their experiments to get people in air than the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA) Bell had put together in Baddeck, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Not only does MacDonald know the story of Bell and his team who built numerous early aircraft including the famed Silver Dart, he knows all the intricacies of flight because he's a retired commercial airline pilot. He includes just the right amount of technical explanations, aviation history (globally and in Cape Breton), plus many photographs and drawings, to interest aviation buffs, historians and anyone, including younger people, with a general interest in Bell, Baddeck Bay and the origins of air travel.

The majority of the photographs were selected by the author from the collection of the AG Bell National Historic Site and are reproduced in stunningly sharp quality on high quality gloss paper and are interspersed extremely well with the text by publisher Formac.

Many of these photos people will never have seen before, and include early airplanes in flight and in construction, hydrofoils (skimmed over open water), members of the AEA, Bell and his wife Mabel; who MacDonald makes clear was every part of the team as Baldwin, McCurdy, Curtiss and Selfridge were.

MacDonald presents the case that the first woman to fly in the British Empire was 23 year-old Dolena MacLeod from Baddeck. Though there is no first hand written account of this, there is plenty of secondary source evidence from many local sources.

MacDonald explains that Bell made a rule that only one person could fly in a plane at a time, after a crash that killed Selfridge in a two person plane driven by Orville Wright. Dolly's airplane ride with pilot Casey Baldwin would have broken Bell's Rule and thus raised his ire, hence it was kept from him and others until years later. Ironically Dolly wouldn't fly again until 1967.

"Firsts in Flight" gives the reader a glimpse of what it was like on the icy Bras d'Or Lake runaways of the early 1900s, who the principals were, what drove them, and what was accomplished in a relatively short dynamic period of time. It was only 60 years later that Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon. MacDonald is as enthusiastic for flight as he is for history and spent numerous years researching material for "Firsts in Flight." It is quite evident in the writing.

At 96 pages the book is both a delight to read, informative, chock full of wonderful images and should have a global appeal for many readers in that it accurately and succinctly tells the story of how one of the greatest inventors of all time got humans in the air and we never looked back

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 96 pages
Publication Date: 1st September 2017
ISBN: 9781459504783
Format: 9in x 8.25in
60+ b&w and colour images

BISAC Code:, BIO015000, HIS006020, HIS027140, TEC002000
Imprint: Formac


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