Andy Walker's Reviews > Empire of the Clouds: When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World

Empire of the Clouds by James Hamilton-Paterson
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's review
Aug 07, 2011

Once upon a time, Britain ruled not just the seas but also the skies. Our aircraft flew faster, higher and further than those of any other nation: our test pilots were household names. Then... nothing. James Hamilton-Paterson has pulled of a stylish and rare coup, part boys' own story, part techinical history, part wistful and bitter narrative, presenting the riches-to-rags saga of post-war British aviation. Laced with the laconic reminicences of pilots like the late Bill Waterson, a former RAF pilot who tested many of the nation's cutting-edge aircraft before moving into journalism and becoming the bete noir of the Establishment, this tale of courage, sudden death, political incompetence and indolent business practices is a gem of a read and a salutary lesson in the dangers of losing both national will and nerve.
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