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Book Reviews
Book Reviews

Books about aircraft engines are not confined strictly to collectors' dusty shelves. New ones are being published all the time. Many of these books, both old and new are reviewed in this section.

Please note that the opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Aircraft Engine Historical Society. If you have a different impression of a book, send us a review!


Studebaker’s XH-9350
and Their Involvement with Other Aircraft Engines

by William Pearce

Softbound, 8.5" x 11" x 0.56", 214 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-985035-310
Old Machine Press (2018)

Recommended Retail Price: $19.99

154 black & white illustrations

Reviewed by Paul Christiansen - 18 Jun 2019

The author has provided a well written, comprehensive history on the background, development and ultimate outcome of this extremely large piston engine. The war outlook strongly indicated that very large aircraft would be needed if events turned against the allies. Born at a time when the outlook for long range aircraft demanded very high power, extremely low specific fuel consumption, along with the ability to fit within the leading edge of a wing, the XH-9350 was an attempt to fill the bill. Engines such as this would have been needed if the gas turbine engine had not come along. The company’s involvement in what would become the XH-9350 began when the Army, looking for someone to develop a 4,500 HP engine of very low fuel consumption and high specific output, found that existing wartime commitments by both the aircraft engine manufacturers and automobile companies producing aircraft engines under license were overwhelmed. The exception was Studebaker, who had the space and resources to undertake the project once an engineer qualified to lead the project was found. He arrived in the form of Norman N. Tilley, who had experience on the Lycoming XH-2470 and the Lawrence three cylinder auxiliary engine. Joining Studebaker, he helped build a proposal for the project in March, 1942 and work began shortly thereafter.

The story of the initial decisions as to cooling (liquid), aspiration (turbosupercharged), fuel system (injected) and propeller gearing (contra-rotating dual propellers) were decided upon. A program using single and dual cylinder test engines of 6.5”, 7.0”, 7.5” and 8.0” cylinder bore were to be built and testing in comparison of each other, along with various valve arrangements. The program is explained in detailed using the original test reports and correspondence as sources. With the final cylinder size decided upon, the engine’s detail “H” layout was being finalized when the war ended and the project stopped. All of this is explained clearly and with many very informative photographs to supplement the progress descriptions. All of the testing results are presented and the logic of the final cylinder and head layouts are supported in the text.

Also included are the prewar involvement of Studebaker in aviation projects, war time production of the Wright R-1820 under license and the post war production of the General Electric J47 turbojet.

Several very large piston engine projects were undertaken both in the USA and around the world during the war and shortly after, many of them never to be built, their development histories largely undocumented in detail, largely reduced to footnotes in the history books. In the case of the Studebaker XH-9350, the author is to be congratulated for giving us this well written in-depth history of this engine project. It fills yet another hole in the development of large piston engines in the nadir of the type. The book is well organized and an easy read, providing the background and positioning the project in the group of other very large engines that were under development and/or appeared in the same time frame for the same purpose. A full bibliography and Index are provided.

America’s Round-Engine Airliners
by Craig Kodera and William Pearce

Hardbound, 10 " x 10" x 0.7", 216 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-580072-649
Specialty Press (2019)

Recommended Retail Price: $46.95

300 color, 200 black and white photos

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 18 Jun 2019

This book traces the evolution of American air travel from its beginnings to the end of scheduled service aboard large piston-engine airliners. It places particular emphasis on the enabling technologies that made air transport advances possible, especially the engine advances. It also weaves the complex tales of airlines' rises and falls, their owners and their unique requirements.

Coauthors Craig Kodera and William Pearce are well credentialed to relate this story. Kodera, whose father worked in the California aerospace industry, flew for the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and civilian airlines. He is also a well known freelance aviation artist. Kodera writes about the aircraft. Pearce grew up in a fly-in community and has a lifelong interest in engines, WWII aircraft and racing. As a lifetime AEHS Member, his Duesenberg and Studebaker aircraft engine books are well known as is his oldmachinepress.com website. Pearce writes about the engines.

Regularly-scheduled commercial aviation grew from the Government air mail contracts resulting from the 1925 Kelly Act, which transferred air mail service from the U.S. Government to private carriers. Early mail/passenger aircraft were powered by WWI surplus Liberty engines, but the introduction of more reliable air-cooled radials, the Wright Whirlwind in 1925 and the Pratt & Whitney Wasp in 1926 paved the way for future airline growth. Boeing, Curtiss, Fairchild, Fokker, Ford and Stinson, to name but a few, produced monoplane and biplane transport aircraft with one, two, three or four radial engines. Airlines and the aircraft industry were feeling their way into the new air transport industry.

The twin-engine all-metal monoplane was what evolved. The 1933 Boeing 247 was the first of these, followed quickly by the Douglas DC-1, DC-2 and DC-3. While these sleek, fast and safe aircraft served well within the continental United States, flying boats were the logical choice for Caribbean and trans-oceanic air travel. Sikorsky, Martin and Boeing produced the luxurious craft.

Landplanes also grew in size, range and luxury. The largest ones all used four engines. Boeing produced the 307 and 377; Douglas produced the DC-4, DC-5, DC-6 and DC-7; Lockheed answered with the Constellation series. The complexity of these aircraft resulted in the introduction of another crew member in addition to the traditional pilot and copilot – a flight engineer to mind the engines and aircraft systems. Kodera admirably covers the key aircraft, airlines and people of this amazing era.

Pearce's engine segments are interspersed among Kadera's aircraft sections. Pearce begins by covering aircraft engine fundamentals including configuration, fuels, supercharging, propeller reduction gearing, engine cowlings and installation. He covers early radial engine history, especially that of Wright Aeronautical, Curtiss and Pratt & Whitney. He details the development history and development challenges of numerous engines, with lots of photographs and diagrams of engines and their internals. Engines covered are the Lycoming R-680; Pratt & Whitney's R-1340 Wasp, R-1690 Hornet, R-1860 Hornet B, R-1830 Twin Wasp, R-2000 Twin Wasp, R-2180 Twin Wasp, R-2800 Double Wasp and R-4360 Wasp Major; and Wright's J-4, J-5 and J-6 Whirlwinds, R-1820 Cyclone, R-2600 Twin Cyclone 14, R-3350 Duplex Cyclone 18 and R-3350 Turbo-Cyclone 18.

Lavishly illustrated with beautiful color and black/white photographs, this volume is a fun, nostalgic read that also includes much history.

Early Westinghouse Axial Turbojets
19A, 19B, 19XB-2B (J30), 9.5A/B (J32)

by Paul J. Christiansen

Softbound, 8.5" x 11.0" x 0.875", 362 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1792061-493
Bleeg Publishing LLC (2019)

Recommended Retail Price: $42.95

191 illustrations, black and white

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 29 Mar 2019

Westinghouse, with some of the best U.S. steam turbine and combustion scientists, was included from the start when the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA) Special Committee on Jet Propulsion was formed in April 1941. The Committee also included representatives from the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) and U.S. Army Air Corps. Westinghouse was soon tasked to study jet engines for aircraft propulsion.

Motivated by the U.S. entry into WWII and working under a U.S. Navy development contract, Westinghouse rapidly studied various compressor, burner and turbine options, designed the experimental prototype Model 19A, built it and ran the first U.S. axial-flow turbojet on 19 March 1943. After addressing problems with main shaft bearings, oil seal leakage and combustion instability, the engine passed a 100-hr endurance test in July 1943. A second 19A was built, hung below a Vought F4U-1 and test flown as a booster engine in early 1944. Additional 19As were built and flown as booster engines in the tails of a Martin JM-1 (Navy B-26C) and a Douglas XBTD-2. In addition to in-house testing, the NACA and Navy also performed tests. Westinghouse delivered five complete 19As and one complete set of parts.

Westinghouse had no prior experience with aircraft engines or with the BuAer. This resulted in a steep learning curve, considerable friction and numerous delays as Westinghouse, BuAer and the various airframers dealt with development and production of the 19A and its descendants. Westinghouse also faced the same component, contractor, personnel, machine, manufacturing space and material shortages that plagued all other wartime manufacturers. BuAer finally had to insist upon and enforce standardization in procurement, security, documentation, engine configuration, production, field support, overhaul and reporting; Westinghouse never fully mastered all  this.

Using lessons learned from the 19A, Westinghouse embarked on the 19B, with an refined compressor, simplified annular burner, improved turbine and increased performance. The 19B was intended as a primary power plant rather than the booster engine the 19A had been. This engine also had its own set of development and production challenges. Preliminary development flight testing was first done in the Martin JM-1, after which the 19B provided primary power for the McDonnell XPD-1 and Northrop XP-79B.

Westinghouse again used all lessons learned from the 19A and 19B to design the 19XB, which was meant to be the production version of the engine. Again, the compressor, burner and turbine were refined and performance enhanced. The Westinghouse Model 19XB-2B was given the J30-WE-20 turbojet engine designation and the J30-P-20 was built under license by Pratt & Whitney.

The Westinghouse Models 9.5A and 9.5B arose in late 1942 to fill a request for a small-diameter turbojet, several of which could be buried in the wings of a small fighter, thereby reducing nacelle weight and sharing accessories and systems, which would reduce complexity. When trade studies established the number of engines required would greatly increase cost, the engine came into consideration for missile propulsion as the J32. A total of 44  engines were produced.

Paul J. Christiansen has covered another Westinghouse saga with the depth and attention to detail we have come to expect. As with past ones, this work is based almost exclusively on primary sources. It is a must for anyone wishing to understand how early U.S. turbojet engines were developed and produced. The book is available from Amazon.com.

The Power for Flight
NASA’s Contribution to Aircraft Propulsion
by Jeremy R. Kinney

6.25" x 9.5", 316 pages
ISBN 9781626830387 (Epub)
ISBN 9781626830370 (hardcover)
ISBN 9781626830394 (softcover)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (2017)
B/W, Color Photographs

Recommended Retail Price: Epub is FREE!!

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon

This work surveys the aircraft propulsion contributions of The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and of its predecessor The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). It primarily addresses work at four NASA centers, the Langley Research Center in Virginia, the Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Ohio, the Ames Research Center in California, and the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. Glenn, NASA’s primary propulsion facility, includes five wind tunnels, the Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Laboratory, the Engine Research Building, the Propulsion Systems Laboratory, and the Flight Research Building. NASA specialists work with the military, industry and academia to create and advance breakthrough aerospace technologies.

The NACA, from its creation in 1915 until it became NASA in 1958, was dedicated to the piston engine–propeller combination and the early turbojet revolution. Among its many accomplishments, the NACA did pioneering work in propeller theory, engine cooling, fuels and engine/airframe integration.

NASA supported the development of high-speed military aircraft flight and commercial subsonic flight during the 1960s and 1970s. It also studied commercial supersonic transport and helped improve reciprocating, turbofan, turboprop and turboshaft performance and fuel efficiency while reducing pollution and noise. NASA contributed extensively to the development of digital engine controls, thrust vectoring and electric aircraft.

As one might surmise, a book that chronicles 100 years of aviation technical history cannot treat it in any great depth. However, The Power for Flight is extensively documented, and much of its rich source collection is available online. In addition, there is a bibliography, an abbreviation list and an extensive index. This is a work that anyone interested in the history of American aircraft propulsion should have.

The Wright Brothers
1904 & 1905
Developing and Test Flying the Wright Flyer II and The Wright Flyer III

by Gerard L. Blake

Softbound, 8.5" x 11.0" x 0.5", 144 pages
ISBN-13 978-0-692-97052-2
Photon Publishing LLC
13932 Brown Road
Smithburg, MD 21783-9208

Recommended Retail Price: $25.00
(Send Check or Money Order to Publisher)

20 pictures/diagrams, black and white

Reviewed by Kimble D. McCutcheon - 19 Nov 2017

This book covers the Wright Brothers' activities during the two years following their four successful powered flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on 17 December 1903. All of these flights were in a straight line into a strong prevailing wind, and the longest distance covered was about 800 feet. Unfortunately, a wind gust picked up the airplane, rolled it around and practically destroyed it, ending their 1903 flying season. They packed up their equipment, what was left of the airplane, and returned to Dayton, Ohio.

Before the first week of January 1904 ended, the Brothers, along with their able assistant Charles E. Taylor, had begun work on a new airplane with a new, more powerful engine, along with significant airframe changes. The Brothers found a 130-acre cow pasture near Dayton, called the Huffman Prairie, and secured the owner's permission to use this space for their further flight experiments provided they "would drive his cows to a safe place and not run over them." The Brothers built a hangar there where the new Wright Flyer II would be assembled and stored.

The first flight attempt was on 23 May 1904, but light winds did not allow the machine to become airborne before running off the end of the launching rail. This problem of light winds in conjunction with the difficulty of having to lay out the launching rail into prevailing wind before each flying session led to the invention of a catapult system, which used a 1,200 lb weight in conjunction with a rope and pulley system to launch the airplane. The catapult system was a great success, and helped the Wrights to more rapidly develop their airplane and piloting skills. On 20 September, during the 52nd flight of the Flier II, Wilbur executed the first 360° turn ever accomplished by a powered airplane. A total of 105 flights were made in 1904.

A new airplane, the Flyer III, was built for the 1905 flying season. Its engine used some components from the 1904 engine, but experimental development continued to refine nearly every aspect of the craft. By the end of 1905, the Brothers were circling Huffman Prairie until the fuel was exhausted. They decided to end the 1905 flying season early after only 49 flights because their activities had attracted a robust press following and they were afraid the attention might sabotage their quest to obtain patents for their invention.

One has to admire the Wright's perseverance. Nearly one in four of their flights resulted in aircraft damage and occasional minor injury to the pilot. After each incident, they patiently repaired the aircraft, nursed their wounds, and kept slowly progressing. They overcame numerous technical obstacles while all the time fretting over delays with obtaining patents, which were finally issued in 1906.

Blake's book does an admirable job of explaining the activities and underlying concepts during this formative period of aircraft development, bringing to light a number of details about the Flyers and their engines. This is a work with which all airplane aficionados should be acquainted.

Sonic Wind
The Story of John Paul Stapp and How a Renegade Doctor
Became the Fastest Man on Earth

by Craig Ryan

Softbound, 5.4" x 8.2" x 1.0", 432 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-631491-910
Liveright (2016)

Recommended Retail Price: $17.95

35 b/w illustrations

Reviewed by Tom Fey - 11 Nov 2017

Sonic Wind chronicles in detail the amazing life of Col. John Paul Stapp MD, PhD (1910-1999), “The Fastest Man on Earth”. The son of missionary Baptist parents, Stapp earned a PhD in biophysics in 1940, his MD degree from the University of Minnesota in 1943, and went onto active duty in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the fall of 1944. Nearing the end of his service, Stapp was posted to the Aeromedical Lab at Wright Field as a project engineer to study pilot escape technology. This posting started his life-long, illustrious, and pioneering work on determining the deceleration force limits of the human body.

Fluent in German, he reviewed all the captured wartime German intelligence regarding ejection seats, then went on to champion the use of rocket and compressed-air driven sleds, a programmed swing seat, and elastic-powered chair-sled to determine the limits of human tolerance to rapid deceleration as well as the effectiveness and evolutionary design of restraint systems. Stapp subjected himself to each of these devices, demonstrating that the human could safely tolerate up to 40 times the force of gravity with properly designed restraint devices. In addition, Stapp managed the series of “Manhigh” parachute jumps from altitudes exceeding 100,000 feet, paving the way for high altitude ejection systems and breaking trail on the largely unknown biophysical risks inherent in the coming age of space flight.

Despite being in the U.S. military, Stapp was adamant about studying the forces of automobile impacts to reduce the ever-growing number of deaths and injuries on American roads in the1950s. He slyly couched his research as serving the safety of the motoring military, yet his findings would have wide application and significant headwinds in the civilian realm. John Paul Stapp was a true scientist with a healthy ego, a diverse intelligence, quirky sense of humor, a complex personal life, a flair for public relations, and a manic drive to find ways to reduce death and injury in the airways and roadways. It is said that Stapp’s pioneering work has indirectly saved more lives than anyone else in history, “The ghosts that never happened”. Author Craig Ryan has produced a nicely balanced, well researched, and finely written book about the perfect, imperfect man at the perfect time to do the dirty work that begets monumental progress. This is an important story, very well told.

Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Publications

Many of the R-RHT books reviewed here can be purchased directly from the Trust. Please download the Book List/Order Form and follow the instructions therein. If you plan to buy more than one R-RHT title, you would probably save money by Joining the Trust. In addition to discounts on R-RHT publications, you would also twice-yearly receive The Journal of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.


Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Historical Series

No 2. The Merlin in Perspective - the combat years
No 15. Olympus: the inside story
No 16. Rolls Royce Piston Aero Engines – a designer remembers
No 18. The Rolls-Royce Dart - pioneering turboprop
No 19. The Merlin 100 Series - the ultimate military development
No 21. The Rolls-Royce Crecy
No 26. Fedden
No 28. Boxkite to Jet
No 29. Rolls-Royce on The Front Lines - The life and times of a Service Engineer
No 30. The Rolls-Royce Tay Engine and the BAC One-Eleven
No 31. An Account of Partnership - Industry, Government and the Aero Engine
No 32. The Bombing of Rolls-Royce at Derby
No 34. Pistons to Blades
No 35. The Rolls-Royce Meteor
No 36. 50 Years with Rolls-Royce
No 39. Parkside: Armstrong Siddeley to Rolls-Royce 1939-1994
No 41. Overhaul of Merlin Engines in India and the USSR
No 43. Eagle: Henry Royce’s First Aero Engine
No 46. Rolls-Royce and the Halifax
No 47. The History of the Rolls-Royce RB211 Turbofan Engine
Hucknall – the Rolls-Royce Flight Test Establishment

Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Technical and Special Series

No 1. Rolls-Royce and the Rateau Patents
No 2. The Vital Spark - the development of aero-engine sparking plugs
No 3. The Performance of a Supercharged Aero Engine
No 4. Flow Matching the Stages of Axial Compressors
No 5. Fast Jets - the history of reheat development at Derby
No 7. Rocket Development with Liquid Propellants
No 9. The Allison Engine Catalog - 1915-2007
No 10. The Rolls-Royce Spey
Special. Sectioned drawings of Piston Aero Engines
Special: Alex Moulton: Bristol to Bradford-on-Avon---a lifetime in engineering


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Japanese Aero Engines The Knife and Fork Man: The Life and Work of Charles Benjamin Redrup
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The Magic of a Name THE ROLLS-ROYCE STORY: The First 40 Years
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R-4360: Pratt & Whitney’s Major Miracle
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