|Hurel Dubois 32
The cynics say that all the fun and adventure has gone from flying; that it is merely big business; a matter of dull routine. How wrong they are!
There is adventure galore in flying the needle-nosed, delta-wing research aircraft, the fantastic vertical take-off 'flying bedsteads' and all the other secret experimental machines that are pointing the way to ever greater speed, altitude, efficiency and safety in the air. The once-dreaded sound barrier is now hurdled as routine hundreds of times a day; but there are even more formidable problems to overcome on the road that will one day carry a new generation of airmen beyond Earth's atmosphere, out into the black emptiness of interplanetary space.
Nor is there adventure only in test flying. The whole business of present-day aviation is full of excitement and interest. What other explanation could there be for the coach-loads of men, women, and children who converge on London Airport—and other airfields all over the world—every fine summer day, not to fly, but just to watch the airlines at work?
As their coaches drive down the ramp and into the long tunnel that leads to London Airport Central Area, they enter a new world of imposing red brick and glass buildings, where at any moment they may rub shoulders with somebody off the front page of their daily newspaper, for almost all the great and the glamorous personalities in the headlines pass through this gateway to Britain.
The visitors marvel at the efficient hustle and bustle of the passenger handling buildings, and the soft-carpeted luxury of the lounges, shops and restaurants. But it is on the concrete aprons outside that most of them focus their attention; for this is where the adventure of air travel begins and ends, as airliners of nearly thirty nations come and go with as little fuss or ceremony as the departure of the 8.21 a.m. passenger train from Little Muddlecombe to London.
What do they see? No doubt the ladies admire and criticize the hats and dresses worn by passengers from Paris and other centres of feminine fashion. But it is the aircraft themselves that attract husbands, fathers and children, even if they cannot tell a Viscount from a Rapide. This is as it should be, for these airliners are modern counterparts of the ships that brought adventure unlimited to our ancestors when half the world was still waiting to be explored.
There are many links with the past. The newest French jet-liner is named Caravelle after the small fast ships of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. The aircraft of Scandinavian Airlines System carry one back much further and bear on their cabins the dragon emblem of the old Viking longboats.
This is only a start, for most modern airliners are given individual names as romantic as those borne by any ship. B.O.A.C.'s Argonauts recall the giants and the beauties of ancient mythology, Ajax, Atlas, Ariadne and a host of others. B.E.A.'s sleek Elizabethans honour the adventurers who won Britain her Empire and Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Richard Grenville still set out from London to conquer time and distance as once they conquered the enemies of their Queen.
Holland honours her great painters. Pan American's Clippers bear such proud names as Invincible, Westward Ho and Flying Eagle. Central African Airways Vikings remind us of mighty rivers like the Limpopo and Zambezi. Qantas bring to Europe a breath of the warm, sultry south seas with their Super Constellations Southern Star and Southern Breeze. Princes, saints, cities, Indian Ranis, the protons and isotopes of atomic energy, explorers, pioneers of flying, all provide names to excite the imagination and delight the boys who collect aircraft registrations and names in preference to the numbers of mere railway engines or motor cars.
To them, the super enthusiasts, the gleaming silver shape on the concrete, surrounded by a fussy swarm of fuellers, baggage trolleys, air-conditioning and starter units, is not just an airliner. It is N6502C, a Lockheed Model L.1049B Super Constellation of Seaboard and Western Airlines, named Paris Airtrader and newly-arrived from the United States with sixteen tons of freight. They could probably add that it is powered by four 3,250 h.p. Wright Turbo Compound 972TC-18DA1 engines, has a wing span of 123 feet and a loaded weight of 59¼ tons.
They already know their airliners, almost to the last nut, bolt and rivet. Yet this book should prove valuable even to them; for it is the first one on the market that illustrates in full colour all the world's leading types of airliners and the badges of all the international passenger airlines serving British airports. It also lists airlines that operate each type of aircraft into British airports.
For those with a less encyclopaedic knowledge of aviation, this book will add to the interest of a visit to an airport, by telling them something about the airliners they see. Above all, it is hoped that the paintings and data will reflect something of the adventure and interest of air transport, which plays such an important part in the daily lives of all of us in this age of flight.